A Pennsylvania judge heavily criticized Allentown police on Friday after a jury acquitted a man of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, saying she was disgusted by what she saw and heard on video of the violent 2018 episode.
After jurors acquitted John Perez of all charges, Lehigh County Judge Maria Dantos called Perez’s arrest and prosecution “shameful.” The video shows officers punching and kicking Perez before arresting him.
Dantos said police used excessive force.
“You came onto that scene like angry, hostile bullies,” Dantos told the officers Friday, according to The Morning Call of Allentown. “You know, ‘those people,’ as the officers called them, are your community.”
Allentown Chief of Police Glenn Granitz offered no immediate response to the judge’s comments.
Four Allentown officers took the stand and said they were dealing with a small but unruly crowd of residents as they investigated reports of an armed man. Perez approached several officers and became combative, they said.
Officer Jose Lebron said he shoved Perez away from him because he was acting aggressively. The video showed Perez getting up and rushing toward Lebron before the four officers began kicking and swinging fists.
Dantos said Perez was justified in trying to defend himself.
Perez, who told jurors he suffered a broken nose, dislocated shoulder and other injuries during the arrest, said he verbally confronted police because they were acting rudely toward residents. The police video showed officers cursing and calling residents names.
Dantos accused the officers of perjuring themselves, and scolded them for their demeanor during the trial.
“You escalated a situation without cause. Cops smirking on the stand at this jury, laughing at the defense attorney, high-fiving in the hallway after testimony as if there were something, anything, to be proud of here,” she said.
Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said in an email to the newspaper that he disagrees “with the perceptions of the judge and her comments concerning our bringing this case. We charge based on probable cause.”