LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A female LAPD officer Tuesday pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting a woman before she died while in police custody.

KNX 1070’s Margaret Carrero reports Officer Mary O’Callaghan will be allowed to remain free on her own recognizance pending her next court appearance.

O’Callaghan, 48, was charged last Wednesday with a felony count of assault by a public officer following the death of Alesia Thomas, 35, who was arrested on suspicion of abandoning her two children at a police station.

Prosecutors say O’Callaghan helped other officers place Thomas — who was handcuffed and wearing leg restraints — in a patrol car after officers responded to Thomas’ home in the 9100 block of South Broadway Avenue on July 22, 2012.

According to prosecutors, a video camera mounted on a police cruiser captured O’Callaghan kicking the woman in the stomach and groin area and “pushing” her in the throat.

Thomas lost consciousness in the patrol car and paramedics were called. She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, prosecutors said.

Attorney Robert Rico said he agreed with prosecutors to safeguard the cruiser camera video because it was in the best interest of his client.

“I believe it will accomplish a jury to be seated that has not prejudged the case, that will see the video in its true light,” Rico said.

Thomas’ family had wanted the video released, but Rico said the footage could end up working to support the defense’s case.

“Miss Thomas was combative; she was kicking, she was refusing to cooperate,” he said.

O’Callaghan has been removed from duty and also faces a disciplinary hearing.

She could serve up to three years in prison if convicted.

A preliminary hearing date has been scheduled to be set on Dec. 5.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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