Seattle police officer pleads not guilty to assault charge

James J. Lee, the Seattle police officer charged with fourth-degree assault after repeatedly kicking a teenage suspect inside a convenience store, pleaded not guilty Monday morning during his arraignment in Seattle Municipal Court.

The City Attorney's Office asked Municipal Court Judge Michael Hurtado to forbid Lee from possessing personal firearms when off-duty. Hurtado denied the motion and only ordered Lee to follow Police Department policies regarding personal weapons collections.

Several Police Department homicide detectives attended Monday's hearing to support Lee, whose next scheduled court hearing will be in August.

The assault charge stems from an Oct. 18 incident in Joe's Mart in downtown Seattle, which was captured on surveillance video. In the video, Lee is seen kicking an African-American teen suspected of trying to rob an undercover narcotics officer. The teen, Dvontaveous Hoston, was later exonerated when he was acquitted of first-degree attempted robbery.

The City Attorney's Office filed the charge against Lee in April after reviewing an independent investigation by the State Patrol, which was brought into the case at the request of Seattle Police Chief John Diaz. The charge is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.

Lee's attorney, Peter Offenbecher, of Seattle, has said his client is innocent. Sgt. Rich O'Neill, president of the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, has also defended Lee, saying he was following accepted training practices.

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If kicking an unarmed man with his hands up in the nuts, and then stomping him on the ground are "accepted training practices" then I think I have found the problem why so many innocent people are injured and killed by police. As a matter of fact, the suspect who the officer approached and assaulted was exonerated at his own trial charged with robbing the undercover narcotics officer who seen beating him in the video above. Regardless, even if the suspect had been guilty of a crime, that is still no justification whatsoever to beat him. It is not the job of the police to mete out arbitrary justice. Their job is to bring a suspect into custody to be tried for the alleged crime. But watching the video, you can see that clearly the man who was beaten and alleged to have robbed the officer, was in the store at the time of the alleged robbery, and you can see police chasing a group of suspects past the store. The victim of the assault made the tragic mistake of stepping outside to see what was going on.

Once again, looking into the mindset of the police, we can turn to PoliceOne to see what other law-enforcement professionals have to say about this incident...

"Taking a robbery suspect down with a couple of kicks? Oh, the brutality. When will it stop? This poor prick criminal may never walk again.

I went straight to the video, watched it twice and had no clue what I was looking for. Other than a typical arrest. The only thing excessive is sticking an assault charge on a cop for arresting a robbery suspect. This looks like a joke."

"I hope that he is a member of the PBA, Damn video'

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