NEW YORK – A New York Police Department officer pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he stomped on the head of a suspect in a videotaped arrest that occurred last summer less than a week after the high-profile in-custody death of Eric Garner.
An indictment charges Officer Joel Edouard with assault, attempted assault and official misconduct, all misdemeanors. He was released without bail after a brief appearance in state court in Brooklyn.
In a statement, District Attorney Ken Thompson called Edouard's alleged conduct "unacceptable," adding it was also uncharacteristic of "the great work being done throughout the city by the vast majority of police officers who perform their duties honorably."
Defense attorney Stephen Worth claimed the video won't hold up in court.
"Neither the video nor the medical evidence will substantiate that Officer Edourad kicked this individual in the head — quite the contrary," Worth said outside court.
The brutality case is the latest one stemming from cellphone videos showing violent encounters between officers and unarmed men, including Garner, suspected of low-level offenses.
The medical examiner found that Garner died from a chokehold following a July 17 arrest for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on a block on Staten Island. The death, followed by a grand jury's decision late last year not to indict the officer, fueled widespread protests.
Three months ago, two other NYPD officers pleaded not guilty to assault charges in the beat down of a teenage marijuana suspect who led them on a foot chase but never put up a fight. A video appears to show one of the officers hitting the teen with his gun as the suspect tries to surrender.
Video in the Edouard case shows officers struggling on the ground with a man they stopped on suspicion of drinking alcohol in public and possessing marijuana on July 23 in Brooklyn. The officer is seen in the footage briefly walking away from the struggle before returning and stomping on the man's head, even after the man was face down and being handcuffed, prosecutors said.
Edouard, 39, was ordered to return to court on March 24. If convicted, the suspended officer faces up to a year behind bars.