A jury on Thursday unanimously found a former Gwinnett County officer guilty of kicking a handcuffed black man in the head during a traffic stop.
According to 11Alive, Robert McDonald was accused of kicking the victim, Demetrius Hollins, in the head and subsequently pointing a gun at his head during the 2017 incident which was captured on video.
All this happened while Hollins was handcuffed and on the ground. Found guilty of aggravated assault, battery and violating his oath of office, McDonald faces up to 26 years in prison.
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McDonald’s former partner, Michael Bongiovanni, who was also implicated in the incident, was filmed striking Hollins in the face during the arrest. He was initially charged with battery, assault and crimes related to lying but reached a plea deal to avoid imprisonment after he agreed to testify in the case.
McDonald and Bongiovanni were both fired after the video of the assault was circulated.
McDonald’s attorney, Walt Britt, however, told the court his client was used as a scapegoat by Bongiovanni. According to Britt, Bongiovanni wasn’t truthful about what transpired in police reports, claiming the sergeant “is the one that set these events into motion,” 11Alive reports.
Britt also claimed Bongiovanni was behind all the injuries Hollins sustained during the arrest.
Prosecutor Charissa Henrich, who admitted Bongiovanni’s involvement in the assault, said McDonald was totally responsible for his own actions during her closing argument.
“It doesn’t negate that he is the one that put the gun to Mr. Hollins’ head. Don’t let him skate because of Bongiovanni,” she told jurors.
Britt said they’re planning on appealing the verdict.
“He was devastated. He held out hope,” Britt told WSB-TV after the guilty verdict was reached. “I don’t think he deserves to go to prison.”
Claiming he was aiming at kicking Hollins in the shoulder and not in the face during the arrest, McDonald admitted to prosecutors that kicking suspects in the head was not part of their training.
He, however, claimed he wasn’t aware Hollins was handcuffed and was trying to pin him to the ground with his foot in order to handcuff him, 11Alive further reports.
Henrich told the jury several witnesses at the scene of the incident saw the suspect in handcuffs.
“There is a man in handcuffs on the ground. You don’t need to do this. It violated all his training, the policies, and state law. The victim thought he was going to die with a gun to his head,” she said.
McDonald’s sentencing is set for a later date.