Self-defense is a natural right; when laws are in place that protect incompetent police by removing one’s ability to protect one's self, simply because the aggressor has a badge and a uniform, this is a human rights violation. All too often, entirely innocent people spend years in prison because they resisted an officer who was unlawfully arresting them. On the rare occasion, however, as the following case illustrates, sometimes justice is served.
Two innocent men were arrested in January after Sgt. Welton Simpson Jr. attacked, arrested, and falsely charged them with assault. When news of the alleged assault on an officer went public in January, the community was outraged. However, now that the men were proven innocent and the cop is now facing charges, there is no outrage.
"There was a lot of outrage in January. Where is the outrage now?" defense attorney Hunter Pruette said.
WBAL reports that attorneys Natalie Finegar and Hunter Pruette are relieved but disturbed that it took six months to get the Baltimore City state's attorney to drop the charges.
"I'm relieved the case has been dismissed and is officially over with," Finegar said. "We're grateful to Marilyn Mosby for dismissing the case today, but it should have happened in January. He should have never been charged."
Luckily for Zayne Abdullah and Donnell Burgess -- who were the victims of Simpson's rage -- video showed that the cop was the aggressor, not them.
In January, Abdullah was charged with pushing and spitting on Simpson. However, his defense attorney pointed out that Simpson's own body camera showed that was not true. Multiple eye-witnesses also disputed the official story.
As the video shows, Simpson attacked Abdullah for no reason and took him to the ground. As Simpson pressed his weight onto his victim, Abdullah began to struggle to breathe, so Burgess jumped in to save his friend. He was then arrested for being a hero.
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"It's not that hard to come out and see he's being a hero, and why is it the defense bar that's asking these questions and police and prosecutors should have done this a long time ago?" Pruette said.
Thanks to the hard work of the attorneys, these two men are now free and Simpson was indicted last week. He was charged with giving a false statement to police and misconduct in office. Baltimore police suspended his police powers and placed him on administrative duties as their internal investigation continues.
If convicted, Simpson faces the possibility of six months in prison -- hardly a just sentence for falsely charging two men who would have spent a decade behind bars for Simpson's lies.
"And now in July, we get to the point the sergeant was not truthful in what happened that evening," Finegar said.
Defending yourself against an unlawful arrest is always just but not always viewed that way in the eyes of the state.
The long-standing precedent set in State v. Mulvihill notes:
“If in effectuating the arrest or the temporary detention the officers employs excessive and unnecessary force, the citizen may respond or counter with the use of reasonable force to protect himself, and if in doing so the officer is injured no criminal offense has been committed.”
This case is used by many to claim you can resist any unlawful arrest. However, as the court noted, a citizen “loses his privilege of self-defense if he knows that if he submits to the officer, the officer’s excessive use of force will cease."