County police officer Robert McDonald sits next to his attorney Walt Britt during his trial at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration building in Lawrenceville, February 4, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Photo: Steve Schaefer
Photo: Steve Schaefer

Mistrial averted in excessive force trial of former Gwinnett cop

Prosecutors on Monday avoided a potential mistrial after it was determined that a standard medical screening of the man stomped by a former Gwinnett County police officer Robert McDonald was either missing or never existed.

The absence of any report on Demetrius Hollins, detained with a bloody lip and face following a April 2017 traffic stop, was certainly unusual.  

According to Gwinnett PD nurse Tammy Largacci, who treated Hollins following his altercation with McDonald and former Gwinnett Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni, every detainee booked in the county jail is evaluated and given a mental health questionnaire. She later qualified that statement, testifying, “There are certain circumstances when (an intake) is not done.”

But the damage was done. Walt Britt, McDonald’s attorney, asked why he hadn’t seen the report. Judge Howard Cook said the defense had every right to review it and, if necessary, contract an expert witness to parse it.

“There’s no bad faith here,” said prosecutor Marlene Oldeen. “We got all the paperwork. We served it.”

Britt’s motions for a continuance and mistrial were denied, as he was unable to prove any malicious intent by the state.

“I don’t have any evidence of anything being destroyed,” Cook said. 

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McDonald, charged with aggravated assault, battery and violation of oath of office, faces a maximum 26 years in prison. His former supervisor and mentor, Michael Bongiovanni, is expected to take the stand on Tuesday.

McDonald would’ve never been involved in Hollins’ arrest had Bongiovanni not called for back-up. By the time McDonald arrived, the senior officer had punched and tased Hollins. 

Kindergarten teacher Danile Koenig didn't see McDonald kick the suspect but recalled being horrified by Bongiovanni's behavior. 

The senior officer "leaned back and just punched (Hollins) in the face so hard ...“I have never seen anything like this in my life," said Koenig, whose brother is a cop. "It was very upsetting." 

Koenig said she called 911 because "someone of authority should know."

Bongiovanni agreed to testify against McDonald in exchange for no prison time.

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