In November 2011, the city of Seattle dismissed a misdemeanor assault charge against Seattle police officer James J. Lee, who was seen on video kicking a 17-year-old suspect, including a kick to his head, during a 2010 arrest.
Lee was facing trial in January in connection with the arrest of D’Vontaveous Hoston on Oct. 18, 2010. During the arrest, Lee kicked Hoston three times. The third kick was to Hoston's head.
Friday, the City of Seattle said it agreed to pay $42,000 to a Hoston, the Seattle Times reported. Hoston had filed a federal lawsuit that alleged Lee had violated his civil rights. The settlment was reached after the lawsuit was dismissed on Sept. 11. The city did not make an admission of liability, the Times said.
When the Washington State Patrol began its investigation of the case at the request of Seattle Police Chief John Diaz, the prosecution's expert witness, Robert Bragg of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, determined that that the third kick was "not reasonable and necessary." As a result, the Criminal Division filed an assault charge against Lee.
When Bragg began his investigation, Lee's use-of-force statement was not given to Bragg.
That was important because of the "Garrity rule," which stipulates that an officer's voluntary statements during an investigation cannot be used for his or her criminal prosecution, only for internal discipline.
On Nov. 11, 2011, Criminal Division attorneys reached an agreement with Lee’s defense attorney to provide Lee's use-of-force statement to Bragg.
As a result of that review, and with the Garrity rule triggered, Bragg issued a supplemental finding 10 days later.
Bragg's opinion was the following:
“In short, and using the additional evidence viewed in the light most favorable to Officer Lee, I now believe that the force in question, the third and final kick, used to control suspect D’Vontaveous Hoston was reasonable and within the teachings of the Criminal Justice Training Commission (albeit, not the best tactic available).”
Holmes said on Wednesday, “Now that our expert witness has changed his opinion, the interests of justice require me to dismiss this charge. I appreciate the professional manner in which Office Lee and his defense counsel cooperated in our good-faith investigation of this matter."
The U.S. Justice Department has criticized the Seattle Police Department’s policy of offering protection from criminal prosecution to officers who provide statements on their use of force, according to the Seattle Times.
In a nine-page letter to Mayor Mike McGinn, the Justice Department wrote the practice “may result in the exclusion of important evidence from an investigation” and undermine public confidence in the department.
The Justice Department is investigating the Seattle Police Department for its general use of force.