The plea deal reached earlier this week by former Gwinnett County police officer Michael Bongiovanni is “an egregious injustice” that will further erode faith in the justice system, the Gwinnett African-American Caucus of the Democratic Party said in a statement released Friday.
Bongiovanni, whose trial was to begin a week from Monday, pleaded no contest to aggravated assault and battery charges for his role in the 2017 videotaped beating of Demetrius Hollins. He will spend the next six months in a work release program, reporting to jail each night, followed by five months of home confinement, tracked by an ankle monitor.
The longtime officer was also granted first-offender status, meaning that the charges against him will be wiped from his record after three years.
“While Bongiovanni pleaded nolo contendere to the serious charges against him, essentially not admitting or denying guilt, it does not change the fact he is caught on tape engaging in inappropriate and criminal actions or that he falsified official reports to cover for his actions,” the statement from the African-American caucus read. “And it does not change the fact he violated his oath of office and brutally assaulted an unarmed motorist.”
Bongiovanni agreed to testify against his former partner, Robert McDonald, whose trial is expected to begin sometime this fall. But the caucus believes Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter let Bongiovanni off easy.
“While Bongiovanni and his attorney might have viewed the outcome as a win, we see it as a loss for the Gwinnett community,” according to the statement. “This sentencing also sends a clear message to other officers that they need not be concerned with possible prison time even if they commit brutal, outrageous violence against unarmed residents of the county.”
“Outcomes like this further perpetuate and give credence to the belief of systemic bias within the criminal justice system,” the group’s missive continued.
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