Thursday, April 4, 2019 · by Katy St. Clair
San Francisco— A man with a neurological disorder
that was approached and then forcibly pushed to the ground by a police officer while
he attempted to board a paratransit van was acquitted of battery and resisting
arrest on Wednesday, Public Defender Manohar Raju has announced.
Marvin Cosby, 60, was looking at a year in county jail had
he been convicted. The jury quickly came to a unanimous “not guilty” decision,
and all the jurors told the attorneys that they were moved by Mr. Cosby’s
“What happened to Mr. Cosby was an outrage and a deep
injustice,” said Semuteh Freeman, his public defender. “I felt as if I was
defending Mr. Cosby’s humanity and dignity, given the charges in this case and
the blatant use of excessive force by the police officers.”
The case hinged around an incident that happened on February
20 in SOMA. Mr. Cosby was waiting to board a paratransit bus so that he could
get to his appointment with a neurologist. For reasons that weren’t made
entirely clear in the trial, he was barred from getting on the van after he was
approached by two police officers. He was then arrested and spent a week in
The jury learned that the officers never notified Mr. Cosby
that he was under arrest as they cuffed him, nor did they explain to him why he
was being arrested. They told the jury that he seemed intoxicated, though Mr.
Cosby’s neurologist testified that his ailment causes him to have slurred
speech and repeated, involuntary movements that make him unsteady.
The jury viewed the officer’s body-worn cameras that showed
Mr. Cosby repeatedly telling the officers that he had an appointment and even
showing them his appointment slip. The jury saw officer Justin Vian-Reagan
arresting Mr. Cosby and slamming him down onto the pavement and handcuffing
him. Mr. Cosby was ultimately charged with resisting arrest and committing
battery upon a police officer. He was never charged with public intoxication or
trespassing on the bus.
“It cannot be that an elderly, disabled man attempting to
take Paratransit to a doctor’s appointment can end up being thrown to the
ground by police and arrested for resisting,” said Freeman.
The jury learned that Vian-Reagan had only been on the force
for eight days and has since left the SFPD after an integrity write-up and less
than a month on the force.
Deputy Public Defender Freeman asked the jury to consider
how the most powerless people in society fare in the halls of justice—the black,
the poor, the disabled.
After the not guilty verdict was read, many jurors told the
attorneys that they didn’t understand why this case ended up in trial in the
first place. “The members of the jury were clear: this was an unlawful arrest
and the police used unreasonable force.”
“We public defenders are here for the Marvin Cosby’s of the
world,” said Raju. “We speak for them in court when they cannot afford an
attorney, ensuring that they get the same consideration and their constitutional
right to a fair trial. I’m especially proud of Ms. Freeman, who deftly exposed
the truth of this case in the courtroom. We are gratified and thank the jury
that Mr. Cosby’s dignity has been restored and that he can get on with his