LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) – A Los Angeles police officer who kicked and punched a man during a videotaped arrest avoided jail Tuesday after he was found to have completed the requirements of a plea deal with prosecutors.
Richard Garcia, 36, was sentenced to a two-year probationary term upon pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of assault by an officer in connection with the October 2014 encounter with Clinton Alford Jr., according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Garcia initially pleaded no contest to a felony count. But according to his plea deal, he was allowed to withdraw the plea and enter a no-contest plea to the reduced count after a judge determined he had completed community service, followed the law, avoided contact with Alford and donated $500 to charity.
Alford’s arrest in South Los Angeles was captured by a security camera on a nearby factory building. While the LAPD usually does not make such recordings public outside of court, the Los Angeles Times obtained and published video footage of the arrest, which had been introduced as evidence in the criminal case against Garcia, under an order from a judge last year.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and the Board of Police Commissioners both criticized the arrest of the then-22-year-old man near 55th Street and South Avalon Boulevard.
Beck told reporters in 2015 that he was “shocked by the content of the video,” and encouraged the D.A.’s office to press criminal charges against Garcia.
Officers contend they arrested Alford because he matched the description of a robbery suspect. After running from police, Alford surrendered but Garcia kicked and struck the suspect.
Alford’s attorney, Caree Harper, called the sentence a mere “a slap on the wrist,” and part of a “long-troubling pattern” of District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s “failure to properly prosecute” officers accused of excessive force.
Harper said police excessive force cases “need to removed” from Lacey’s authority “and placed in the hands of an independent prosecutor who does not have to seek re-election.”
Garcia would have faced up to three years in jail had he been convicted of the felony assault charge.
The officer is still employed by the LAPD, though he has remained at home, away from work, pending a disciplinary hearing, according to the Times. Beck said Tuesday that Garcia was no longer being paid by the LAPD, and the chief noted that the forthcoming disciplinary hearing could result in the officer’s firing, according to the newspaper.
Meanwhile, the city of Los Angeles may be close to settling a 2014 federal lawsuit brought by Alford for alleged civil rights violations.
Documents show the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee was scheduled to discuss Alford’s federal lawsuit against the LAPD in a closed session with legal counsel on Monday. That’s often a sign that the city is close to reaching a settlement, although the city attorney’s office will not comment on the details of closed sessions. According to federal court records, the lawsuit has settled.
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