Three years after being arrested for allegedly assaulting a cop, Luis Jimenez was found not guilty—for the third time.
The verdict paves the way for a civil case Jiminez has filed against the cops who arrested him, and it means his lawyer will add another complaint: malicious prosecution.
The verdict came down from Judge Michael Kamp Tuesday afternoon in Courtroom C of state Superior Court on Elm Street. After a total of nine witnesses testified over seven days of testimony, Jimenez was found not guilty of creating a public disturbance, an infraction.
It ended a rare case of a defendant facing trial three times for the same charge, a minor charge at that. It featured an immigrant who fought back against the cops—three times—and prevailed.
Jimenez, who’s a widower from Ecuador, said fighting the charge against him meant he lost work as a driver. “My hope is that nobody will have to suffer this again,” he said.
Raul Erazo Velardo (at right in photo), Ecuadorian consul, attended the final day of court. He said the verdict sends a clear message that police have to respect people’s inalienable rights. He said Jimenez was very courageous to go through three trials.
The charge stemmed from an incident on May 14, 2010, in which Jimenez was arrested at Criscuolo Park in Fair Haven, where he had arrived with his kids and girlfriend to coach a women’s soccer team.
Officers Martin Feliciano claimed that when he caught Jimenez talking on a cell phone while driving, Jimenez got out of his car and attacked him.
Jimenez acknowledged he had been speaking on his phone, but insisted that he put it down immediately after the cops spotted him. He said cops then assaulted him for no reason and threw him on the ground in front of his screaming children.
Jimenez initially faced charges of talking on a cell phone, not wearing a seat belt, interfering with police, assaulting an officer, and disorderly conduct. Those charges were later dropped down to a single infraction, creating a public disturbance.
Jimenez could have paid $75 and been done with the the matter, but he chose to fight the charge. In a first trial, he was found not guilty, but the prosecution appealed the decision.
After a retrial was ordered, a magistrate ruled in Jimenez’s favor.
The prosecution then asked for a trial “de novo,” which led to yet another trial, this time in front of a judge. In the case of a magistrate decision, either side can ask for a trial “de novo.” That was the trial that ended on Tuesday, with the same verdict: not guilty.
The trial closed Tuesday afternoon with final arguments. Prosecutor Devant Joiner said Jimenez had several times changed his story of what happened on May 14, 2010, and that although he claimed he was assaulted, his mugshot shows no evidence of an assault.
What really happened is Jimenez, “got out of his car and he made a mistake,” Joiner said. “He put his hands on a police officer.”
“His own statements damned him,” Joiner said. During an internal affairs investigation of the incident, Jimenez told police that he had resisted the arrest, Joiner said. “You do not have the right to resist even an illegal arrest.”
The internal affairs investigation found no wrongdoing by the officers involved.
Attorney Paul Garlinghouse (pictured), representing Jimenez, presented an alternate story of what happened. He said it was Feliciano, an over eager rookie cop, who made the mistake. He beat up an innocent man, Garlinghouse said.
“Officer Feliciano is lying to cover up what he did wrong,” Garlinghouse said. “Why on earth” would Jimenez shove a cop with his kids and girlfriend in the car and a soccer team waiting nearby?
Even if Jimenez cried out while being assaulted by the cops, that doesn’t amount to creating a public disturbance, Garlinghouse said.
After a recess of 15 minutes, Judge Kamp returned with his verdict: “I find the defendant not guilty.”
Jimenez embraced his tearful 14-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter, who had been sitting in the first row of viewer seats in the courtroom.
“With this result, we can add malicious prosecution” to Jimenez’s civil case against the police, Garlinghouse said. Jiminez is suing the police in federal court for assault and emotional distress.
Garlinghouse said that Jimenez spent thousands of dollars to have Garlinghouse defend him. “But he saved $75 in the end.”
Asked outside the courthouse why he hadn’t simply paid the $75 fine for creating a public disturbance, Jimenez said the police had lied so many times and he wanted to make sure they wouldn’t do it again.