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The officer who shoved a kneeling protester has been charged with misdemeanor battery

Andrew Cuomo

The Fort Lauderdale Police officer seen on video shoving a kneeling protester and then being scolded by a fellow officer has been charged with misdemeanor battery, according to court records.

Officer Steven Pohorence, who has been suspended from the police force since the May 31 incident, faces up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted.

Video of the incident gained significant attention on social media because Pohorence, who is White, was confronted by his Black colleague, Officer Krystal Smith, after the protester was shoved.

Pohorence’s attorney Mike Dutko tells CNN the video “doesn’t reflect the totality of the circumstances.”

“I urge people to slow down before they arrive at strong conclusions,” Dutko told CNN in a phone interview. “We need to see the rest of the everything.”

Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione announced in a statement that following the court case,the department’s Office of Internal Affairs “will complete an administrative investigation to determine if any departmental policies were violated.”

According to a press release from State Attorney Michael J. Satz’s office, prosecutors decided to file the misdemeanor charge “after reviewing the victim’s medical records to see if her injury fell under the legal requirements for a misdemeanor or felony charge.”

“To file a felony charge, prosecutors would have to be able to prove ‘great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement’ under the battery statute,” state attorney spokesperson Paula McMahon told CNN in an email. “Just like in any criminal case, if we receive additional evidence, we will reevaluate it.”

Dutko says his client was not part of the police unit working near the protesters that day. Pohorence was there because he had been called to the scene to assist an officer that had been trapped in a patrol car and surrounded by protesters, his attorney said.

The battery charge comes as the police response to protests across the US — much of which has been caught on camera — is under intense scrutiny.

Pohorence was suspended with pay after the incident. Dutko says that as a result of the misdemeanor battery charge his client is now suspended without pay.

According to Dutko, Pohorence has worked at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department for roughly four or five years, after working at the Florida Highway Patrol.

Four days after the incident, Officer Krystal Smith posted a photo, which showed her scolding her fellow officer for his action.

“As cliché as it may seem, I stand firm in the saying ‘be the change you want to see,'” she wrote on Instagram. “We cannot continue to complain and not be willing to help effect change. There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we see injustice and fail to check it.”

CNN has reached out to Officer Smith for comment through the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, but has not yet received a response.

Records obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinnel say that Pohorence filed an Internal Affairs grievance against Smith for that post, reportedly claiming it could, “further divide the department.”

The newspaper reports that Internal Affairs declined to move forward with Pohorence’s grievance.

Internal Affairs has reportedly investigated 79 complaints against Pohorence for use of force in roughly three and a half years, according to documents obtained by the Miami Herald. The newspaper also reported the internal affairs reviews, “also show he never fired his weapon or was found to have violated any department policies.”

CNN has asked the Fort Lauderdale Police Department to release those records to CNN but they have not yet responded to the request.

Dutko said he was aware of the reports but was unable to corroborate them, saying it’s not been a focus of his conversations with his client.

It’s unclear when Pohorence’s first appearance in court could be; Covid-19 has had significant impact on court schedules and processing. Dutko believes that the case will begin in the middle or end of July.

Article Topic Follows: US & World

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