The judge who delivered a controversial decision in the assault trial of Jonathan Josey, a former Philadelphia police lieutenant who was filmed hitting a woman in the face, now faces criticism because of his reported ties to police.
Municipal Judge Patrick Dugan caused an uproar in the Puerto Rican community with his decision to acquit Josey of simple assault charges Tuesday. On Thursday the Philadelphia Daily News, citing city payroll records, reported that Dugan is married to a Philadelphia police officer, and that his wife reportedly attended Josey's bench trial on Feb. 12.
Dugan would not comment on the potential conflict of interest, saying the Code of Judicial Conduct prevented him from doing so. However, critics of his decision in the case have been vocal about the development, which appears to have come to light only after he announced his ruling.
Enrique Latoison, lawyer for Aida Guzman, the woman whom Josey hit in the controversial footage, said he only learned Tuesday that Dugan is married to a police officer.
Latoison on Tuesday said he would ask the Department of Justice to conduct an independent investigation of the case, and that he planned to file a civil suit against Josey, according to the Lehigh Valley Morning Call.
Frank M. McClellan, professor of law emeritus at the Temple University Beasley School of Law and a specialist in legal ethics and malpractice, told the Daily News that it "would have been appropriate, even if not required" for Dugan to recuse himself in the Josey case, in order to assure the public that a fair and impartial decision would be made.
Visit the Philadelphia Daily News for more reactions to this development.
According to Raw Story, Dugan had refused to admit as evidence the video in which Josey can be seen striking Guzman. Dugan claimed the clip was not an accurate portrayal of the situation.
"This is not a social-media contest; this is not a trial by video," Dugan said in court.
According to CBS Philadelphia, Josey testified that he'd lunged for Guzman when she refused to drop a bottle of beer and claimed that he'd accidentally struck the woman in an attempt to knock the bottle from her hand.
The verdict, which has been lauded by police, was reached after a two-week deliberation in a trial without a jury, according to ABC Philadelphia.
District Attorney Seth Williams released a statement following the decision. "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, according to various media outlets.
However, one commenter on a Reddit forum devoted to incidents of alleged police brutality criticized Williams for not fighting for a trial by jury.
"[Williams] could have opposed the bench trial and opted for a jury trial -- to my knowledge he didn't. I think in a case like this, where the public is keenly aware of the facts, a jury trial would have been the most prudent course of action for all involved. It would have minimized a possibly corrupt judge/DA/defense attorney combo's ability to manipulate the trial," user your_real_father wrote.
Under Rule 23(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, "a defendant may obtain a bench trial if (1) defendant executes a written waiver of his right to a jury, (2) the government consents, and (3) the court approves the request."