A pair of police officers from Paterson, New Jersey are facing federal civil rights and obstruction of justice charges for allegedly assaulting 19-year-old Osamah Alsaidi in December, then lying about the encounter in an official report to cover up their actions, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.
Paterson Police Officers Kevin Patino, 29, and Kendry Tineo-Restituyo, 28, both surrendered to authorities Tuesday on charges of depriving a victim of his constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by police officers and filing a false police report.
“Police officers who abuse their positions to exert power over and injure the citizens they are supposed to protect violate our Constitution and erode trust in our public institutions,” Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Rachael A. Honig said. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to working closely with the FBI and our state partners to investigate and prosecute these civil rights violations and restore the public trust.”
The December 14, 2020 assault was captured by a surveillance camera. The footage shows Patino and Tineo-Restituyo pull their unmarked car into the path of a walking Alsaidi—an Amazon delivery driver on his way to work—just after midnight.
“Patino grabbed hold of the victim. When the victim attempted to separate himself, Patino struck the victim in the face and body numerous times,” the Justice Department said. “While Patino was striking the victim, Tineo-Restituyo picked the victim up and threw him to the ground. Patino and Tineo-Restituyo then repeatedly struck the victim while he was on the ground.”
The officers then arrested Alsaidi based on a false police report which claimed the encounter began with him walking towards the officers “screaming profanities” and “acting belligerent,” DOJ said. They also alleged that Alsaidi initiated and instigated the physical violence by punching Patino in the chest unprovoked — leading Alsaidi to be charged with multiple crimes, including aggravated assault on a police officer.
“None of this was true,” the DOJ stated. “The report also omitted the fact that Patino and Tineo-Restituyo continued to strike the victim after the victim was on the ground.”
Alsaidi’s attorneys, Diego Navas and Akram Alsaidi, on Tuesday told CNN that they were pleased federal prosecutors had decided to get involved in their client’s case.
“We understand that this is just the first step in obtaining justice for Mr. Alsaidi, but it is an important one—the fact that detectives, agents and prosecutors who investigated this believe they have enough evidence to try the officers on these charges,” the attorneys said. “We are also very mindful of the importance of the video in this case as a jury does not have to decide who to believe—the victim or the officer—they can see it for themselves.”
Anthony Iacullo, the attorney representing Patino in the matter, maintained that his client had done nothing wrong.
“This is merely the first step in the process which we are confident will vindicate Officer Patino and establishing that his actions, based on the totality of what transpired that night, were appropriate,” Iacullo told The Star Ledger.
Both officers were released Tuesday on $50,000 bond conditioned on turning over their firearms and traveling documents to law enforcement.
DOJ noted that, technically, the maximum penalty for the civil rights charge is 10 years in prison, while the maximum penalty for the false report charge is 20 years (if this case does result in convictions, do not expect those kinds of punishments to be handed down).
[image via YouTube screengrab]
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