April 27, 2013

Former deputy acquitted of beating suspect

— AUGUSTA (AP) — A former Richmond County sheriff’s deputy said he hopes to return to law enforcement after a jury acquitted him in the beating of a handcuffed suspect.

It took a jury two hours Friday to find ex-deputy Bryan P. Johnson not guilty of aggravated battery, The Augusta Chronicle reported.

Johnson was fired after being charged the felony offense and had insisted ever since that he was innocent. He would have to seek reinstatement of his certification with the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council before he could return to police work.

Prosecutors said Johnson kneed and punched Christopher Kersey in the face while arresting him at a dance club in July 2009. Kersey says the beating fractured bones in his face and dislocated his jaw.

The former deputy’s defense attorney, Jacque Hawk, focused on conflicting witness accounts. Some said they saw Johnson beating the suspect, while others testified they simply saw officers trying to subdue a combative and intoxicated suspect. Other witnesses said they saw different officers hitting Kersey.

Hawk also noted that law enforcement officers are allowed to use force when suspects become violent.

“We’re not fighting about money here,” Hawk told the jury. “We’re talking about people’s lives.”