Lawyer says video evidence favors homeless man alleging battery by police in Orlando

By Carrie Bradon | Dec 13, 2018

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ORLANDO — A homeless man is filing a civil rights lawsuit after he was allegedly struck by a police officer.

The incident took place in August 2015 when Terre Johnson, a homeless man, was confronted by an Orlando police officer, James Wilson. The police officer allegedly asked the plaintiff to remove his feet from the street and not sit on the curb, and the plaintiff alleges that the police officer was the first one to punch.

Johnson was put in jail for 44 days, but was found to be not guilty of the previous allegations of battery against law enforcement. Following his release from jail, Johnson filed his lawsuit in federal court.

Peter Vujin, a Miami-based attorney, said video evidence was on the homeless man's side.

"The video clearly shows that the police officer put his hands on victim first, thereby committing the crime of battery—any unwanted touching of another person is a crime called 'battery' in Florida, a misdemeanor," Vujin told the Florida Record.

Vujin said that the only reason a police officer would have to touch someone in the line of duty would be to make an arrest, but here the police was not seeking to arrest the man, as the man was not committing a crime.

"No reasonable person could believe that the victim committed any crime just by sitting on the street," Vujin said. "Therefore, the action by the police officer became a crime, because he had no legal justification to touch, or seize, the victim."

Given the fact that Johnson was acquitted upon his release is important information, Vujin said, and will likely result in a favorable outcome for Johnson.

"It should be relatively easy for Mr. Johnson to obtain some relief in his lawsuit, because his testimony, the Judgment of Acquittal, and the video recording, when weighed against the testimony of the officer, provides a preponderance of evidence that Mr. Johnson was battered and had his civil rights violated," Vujin said.

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