On Friday, a female LAPD officer, Mary O’Callaghan, 50, was convicted of assault under color of authority for a July 22, 2012 incident in which she kicked a woman seven times in the groin, abdomen and upper thigh while she was being held in the back seat of a patrol car.
The prosecution had played a video showing O’Callaghan aim a blow at the throat of Alesia Thomas, 35, then say she would break her arms and kick her. O’Callaghan followed by lifting her boot and kicking Thomas.
The officer is white; the victim was black.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the video showed Thomas breathing heavily while intoning over and over, “I can’t.” Another video from a neighboring police car showed O’Callaghan laughing and smoking a cigarette while she glanced at Thomas, whose legs were secured. O’Callaghan muttered, “That ain’t a good sign.”
Thomas, who was taken by a patrol car after police investigated claims she had abandoned her two children at the police station, died after her arrest at a hospital; a Los Angeles County coroner performed an autopsy and decided that cocaine intoxication was likely a “major factor” in her death. The official cause of death was listed as “undetermined.”
The jury acknowledged that the video of O’Callaghan striking Thomas gave them the impetus to convict her; Deedra Garcia, the jury forewoman, admitted, “It played a big role. It gave us a lot of evidence.”
Defense attorney Robert Rico said that even though the video showed an “ugly” scene, O’Callaghan’s use of force was “reasonable, justified and necessary” because Thomas wasn’t obeying the officers’ instructions.
Rico said after the verdict was announced that he would ask for a new trial because jurors had been swayed by an emotional appeal and not the facts of the case.
The district attorney stated that O’Callaghan could receive up to three years in state prison to be served in county jail, according to local news station KTLA.