HOUSTON – As he testified last month at the first of potentially several trials of ex-Houston police officers accused of beating him during a 2010 burglary arrest, Chad Holley explained to jurors that his brush with the law was an aberration and that he was planning to go to college to get his life on track.
But less than two months after Holley, now 18, finished probation for that burglary, he has been accused of committing another one. His latest arrest could be problematic not just for him but for prosecutors, who have indicted three other officers for their roles in the teen's alleged beating, which was captured on videotape.
In the first trial, a jury acquitted ex-Houston police officer Andrew Blomberg on a misdemeanor charge of official oppression, prompting black community leaders to criticize the verdict by an all-white jury as unjust and racist. Blomberg's defense attorneys had said he never kicked Holley, who is black, but was only trying to secure a potentially armed suspect. Holley testified he wasn't resisting arrest.
In a statement, Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos declined to comment on how Holley's new arrest might affect how prosecutors proceed, saying she doesn't want publicity resulting in the pending trials being moved to another jurisdiction.
But some legal experts say while Holley's new arrest doesn't derail the criminal cases against the three other indicted ex-officers it will make it harder for prosecutors to prevail.
"Most of the citizens of Harris County don't want to punish a police officer if they think that they were doing God's work in their duties and if they think, 'Well you know Mr. Holley is a burglar and the other officer has already been acquitted.' I think it makes it difficult to get a conviction," said Keith Hampton, a Houston attorney familiar with the case.
The 2010 videotaped arrest of Holley, who was 15 at the time, prompted fierce public criticism of the Houston police department by community activists who called it an example of police brutality against minorities.
In the video footage from a security camera, Holley is seen falling to the ground after trying to hurdle a police squad car. He is then surrounded by at least five officers, some who appear to kick and hit his head, abdomen and legs.
Four officers, including Blomberg, were fired and later indicted on various misdemeanor charges. Holley was convicted of burglary in juvenile court in October 2010 and placed on probation, which ended in April.
On Wednesday, Holley and three others were arrested on suspicion of burglarizing a home. Holley, who made a court appearance Friday, has been released on bond.
Quanell X, the community activist who released the video of the alleged beating to the media, said he was disappointed by the new arrest. He said Holley is dealing with an undisclosed mental illness and had stopped taking medication for it.
"We are not going to throw this young man in the garbage pail. He needs help," he said after Holley's court appearance.
Benjamin Hall, an attorney representing Holley and his family in a pending federal lawsuit filed against Blomberg, the other fired officers and the city of Houston, said while the teenager will have to face the consequences of his actions, the new arrest should not be part of the pending trials.
"I'm sure the judge will instruct (jurors) accordingly that the only conduct that is to be viewed is the criminal conduct these police officers did two years ago," he said.
But attorneys for two of the fired officers yet to be tried say the new arrest is something they will try to get admitted into evidence. Their trials have yet to be scheduled.
"It helps in regard that we've been trying to portray him as a person that is not a law-abiding citizen, and he's simply a dangerous person and continues to act in the same manner," said Carson Joachim, an attorney for ex-officer Drew Ryser.
Joe Owmby, an attorney for ex-officer Raad Hassan, said the defense is entitled to bring up this new arrest because it speaks to Holley's credibility.
Joel Androphy, another Houston attorney familiar with the case, said he doesn't think the judge presiding over the pending trials will allow jurors to hear about Holley's new arrest because it's not relevant to the alleged beating.
"But the jury is going to know about it. It's going to be problematic for the district attorney's office," he said. "Jurors are going to look at this as a problem young man and (could give) the officers more wide latitude in justifying how they arrested him."