A judge has found a former Philadelphia Police lieutenant not guilty of simple assault in a case sparked by a viral video, in which the officer is seen striking a woman at a Puerto Rican Day Parade afterparty in September 2012.
Jonathan Josey was fired from the Philadelphia Police in October 2012, but he maintained that he did not intend to strike Aida Guzman, a reveler whom he thought had thrown beer on officers conducting a traffic stop.
Josey testified that he'd lunged for Guzman when she refused to drop a bottle of beer. He said the controversial punch had been an attempt to knock the bottle out of her hand, according to CBS Philadelphia. Josey said he was "shocked" to see her go down when his hand connected with her face.
According to ABC Philadelphia station WPVI, Judge Patrick Dugan said the video was disturbing but blamed the media for sensationalizing the incident and playing the clip "a thousand times."
The video in question was viewed more than 1.5 million times on YouTube, according to NBC Philadelphia. It has since been removed.
"Being a cop in this city is something I've wanted to do since I was 5 years old. There's nothing else I've wanted to do," Josey said outside court Tuesday, after the decision was handed down, according to WPVI. "In my future, I plan on retiring when I want to retire."
Police were pleased by the verdict, but Guzman, her lawyer and members of the Puerto Rican and Spanish-speaking community were vocally upset outside court following the decision. In a statement released to media outlets, District Attorney Seth Williams said he will respect the judge's decision although he disagrees with it.
"While I believe Jonathan Josey was guilty of simple assault this is not the time to dwell on that and I hope as a community we can move past this," Williams wrote.
Commenters on a Reddit forum that tracks alleged incidents of police brutality were also unpleased with the verdict.
"For the sake of fairness, shouldn't it be against the law for a high ranking police officer to receive a 'trial by judge?' There's far too high a chance the judge will feel political pressure, or pressure from a friend somewhere in law enforcement to rule in favor of the police officer," wrote user Lincolns_Revenge.