San Diego, CA — Justice has finally prevailed for a San Diego man who was charged with multiple crimes after he was viciously attacked by a plainclothes cop in an apparent fit of road rage. Refusing to admit to doing anything wrong for the incident that took place in May of 2015, Robert Branch took his case to court and was found not guilty on all counts.
Branch, 27, faced felony and misdemeanor charges including resisting an officer by force, attempting to spray the detective with pepper spray and failing to provide his driver’s license and registration.
At 9 am Friday morning, the jury read the verdict as Branch became visibly relieved.
“It’s been a journey for me, I’ve been going through so much,” he told reporters. “I can still feel my heart pounding.”
As the San Diego Tribune reports, Branch thanked the jury and his lawyer Marc Kohnen, adding that he planned to go home and hug his 1-year-old daughter.
“I’m just happy the jury saw it the same way we have all along,” Kohnen said.
“I don’t want to take any credit because the facts were the facts, and Mr. Branch had unreasonable force used upon his person,” the attorney continued. “I’m just glad we were able to present it in a format that resonated with the jury.”
In an interview at the time of the attack, Branch said that the incident began as Detective Paul Ward attempted to run him off the road in an apparent case of road rage.
According to Ward, however, Branch was driving erratically and at a high rate of speed.
As Branch slowed down in traffic, Ward began to follow him, and the two stopped in a driveway on Lambda drive.
If Branch was speeding, he should have been given a citation. Instead, the plainclothes detective became physical.
Branch, being skeptical of the man claiming to be an officer, who was not in uniform nor a patrol car, simply asked for an on-duty uniformed officer to come to the scene.
At this point, Branch started filming.
“Sheriff’s Department, can you call the police please,” Ward says to a bystander in the video as he begins his physical attack on Branch.
Branch also speaks to the bystander, telling him, “Call the police right now!”
The two men continue to struggle, with Branch saying: “This is not being detained. This is abuse… Get off my neck. You’re choking me right now!”
Branch then drops the phone as he goes unconscious for a moment and at this point he began to think that this man may actually kill him.
Branch is later heard saying, “I’m going to spray you if you don’t let go.”
Police originally claimed that Branch “became agitated, uncooperative and refused to comply with Detective Ward’s request.” Ward said that he could not see the man’s hands and may have had a can of pepper spray in the other hand that wasn’t holding a camera, so he had no other option but to stop the man from breathing.
However, Ward only had the pepper spray as a defense against a crazed man who clearly had the intention of attacking him. And, as the video clearly shows, he was calm and posed no threat.
Thinking the peaceful and calm Branch was a threat, however, Ward applied, what he refers to as a “department-approved carotid-restraint,” otherwise known as a chokehold.
“He was standing there, waiting for a uniformed officer. He was not attempting to leave the scene,” said attorney Marc Kohnen. “He was not doing anything that would cause Officer Ward to be fearful for his own safety nor the safety of persons around.”
The carotid restraint completely prevented Branch from being able to breathe. Branch thought he was going to die. In the video, we can hear Branch struggling to take in air.
After fearing for his life, the non-violent, non-threatening Branch was subdued by the officer. He was taken to the hospital and then booked on the multiple charges. Had he not decided to film that day, Friday’s verdict could’ve been the opposite.
“If it wasn’t for that video, I’d probably be locked up right now,” Branch said after the verdicts. That statement couldn’t be truer.