NEW YORK (AP) — Two police officers pleaded not guilty to assault charges on Wednesday in the violent beat-down of a teenage marijuana suspect who prosecutors say never put up a fight.
David Afanador and Tyraine Isaac sat expressionless as defense attorney Stephen Worth entered the plea for them at an appearance in state court in Brooklyn. Afterward, Worth said a widely watched security video of the encounter was misleading.
"It's only damning because it lacks the context which the officers and the other evidence in this case will provide," Worth said.
He said the teen marijuana suspect was "noncompliant" throughout the encounter.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson, speaking to reporters at his office, took a different view. He called the video convincing evidence of police brutality.
"We had a 16-year-old boy with his hands up, seeking to surrender, who was attacked by members of the force who are supposed to protect him. ... He was defenseless," Thompson said. "We've all seen the video. It speaks for itself."
Authorities say the incident began at about 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 29 when the New York Police Department patrolmen spotted the teen toss a bag of marijuana and take off running. The video shows the teen slowing down on a Brooklyn sidewalk as the officers catch up to him.
The tape then appears to show Isaac hitting the teen with a roundhouse punch. Seconds later — as the teen backs away, raises his hands and leans against a wall — Afanador appears to hit him with his pistol. The beating continues until the teen drops to the ground and is handcuffed.
The NYPD's Internal Affairs Bureau began investigating the arrest and tracked down the video after the teen complained about a mouth injury. Medical records showed that he lost at least two teeth.
News of the excessive-force investigation surfaced last month amid an uproar over the death of an unarmed man, Eric Garner, during another videotaped arrest in July on Staten Island. The medical examiner ruled that a banned chokehold used by one of the arresting officers contributed to Garner's death.
A grand jury is hearing evidence to consider whether there should be criminal charges brought in the Garner case, with a decision expected before the end of the year. Union officials insist the officer used an authorized takedown move, not a chokehold.
Afanador, 33, faces up to seven years in prison if convicted of felony assault. Isaac, 36, faces up to a year if convicted of misdemeanor assault. Both have been suspended from the police force.
Police Commissioner William Bratton has said he's eager to identify abusive officers and kick them out of the nation's largest police department.