A Brooklyn judge convicted an NYPD officer of misdemeanor assault for stomping on the head of a suspected pot smoker while he was being held face-down by other officers in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Officer Joel Edouard is facing as much as a year in jail after being convicted today following a judge trial in Brooklyn Supreme Court.

"This police officer, in broad daylight and in front of a crowd of people, stomped on the head of a suspect while he lay on the ground, subdued and surrounded by other officers," Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson said in a statement. "That's why he was indicted, put on trial and convicted. His conduct was simply outrageous."

Video of the July 2014 incident also showed Edouard pulling his gun and pointing it in the face of Jahmi-El Cuffee, who footage shot by a bystander shows struggling with the officers on a Malcom X Boulevard sidewalk. Edouard and others tried to cuff Cuffee for allegedly smoking marijuana in public. Agitated, Edouard paced the area after backup arrived, and as other officers continued to struggle with Cuffee, who was face-down on the ground, Edouard returned to his side and stomped his head into the pavement.

Edouard "let down his fellow officers by losing his composure in an admittedly difficult decision," said Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Alan Marrus.

Cuffee was initially charged with attempted tampering with evidence, obstructing governmental administration, and resisting arrest, all of which were ultimately dismissed.

At trial, Edouard's lawyer Anthony Ricco, a seasoned defense attorney who has represented many high-profile clients, including accused terrorists, violent cops, and mobsters, argued that Cuffee caused his own injuries by resisting arrest. He said also that Cuffee alarmed officers by reaching for something in the small of his back. The witness who shot the video acknowledged under cross-examination that Cuffee and a friend made a hand-to-hand exchange moments before officers approached.

Edouard was reassigned to desk duty after video of the arrest surfaced online in 2014, and has been suspended without pay now that he's been convicted, according to the NYPD. Ricco said that NYPD management should allow Edouard to remain on the force.

"[Edouard is] of course disappointed with the verdict. We disagree with the court's conclusion," Ricco said. "He's a good cop, a good father, a good person, and we're hoping that the police commissioner will take a closer review of all the facts and allow him to continue to be a police officer."

Asked what he makes of Thompson calling Edouard's actions "outrageous," Ricco said:

That's rhetoric. People can look at all of our conduct and call it outrageous. I don't think that necessarily helps the important dialogue that should take place when events like that happen. The DA's Office would agree with me that police Officer Edouard has a good record and is a good police officer and a good person.

So what do we do when a good person makes a mistake? This is not a situation where someone got shot, where someone was injured, where someone got stitches. I just find that an objective, less political review of this case would show this doesn't warrant this good policeman losing his job.

Why do I say that? Because police officer Edouard is exactly the kind of person that this police department has been looking to recruit and have as a member of the force, to patrol the entire city but particularly in the inner-city neighborhoods.

Ricco seemed to say that the conviction was unfair because Thompson had sought no jail time in the shooting death of Akai Gurley by officer Peter Liang, and suggested that I was too young to understand the way he does.

He's calling it outrageous because he has to make statements to the public to get reelected, particularly when the public calls him not asking for jail time for an officer who accidentally killed someone outrageous.


I know the DA personally, so I don't have to guess about why he's saying things. Eric Garner got choked to death on a street in a chokehold that the police department doesn't even allow. Is that outrageous? How can that be defined the same way, if those officers are not even convicted?

When I pointed out that Ricco seemed to be saying that Edouard is being held to a separate standard because he is African- or Caribbean-American—Liang is of Chinese descent and Daniel Pantaleo, the only officer for whom charges were considered for involvement in killing Garner, is white, and the NYPD has had widely publicized difficulty hiring black men—Ricco grew furious:

That's not what I'm saying. That's your ignorance. That's your bias. Why would I not tell you what I meant and instead try to imply something like that? I'm not a politician. I don't work for anybody. I'm insulted that you would ask me that question.

Call me back when you've grown up.

Edouard's sentencing is set for June 10th.