CLEVELAND (AP) — A woman who spent five days in jail for what police internal affairs investigators concluded was a false charge of assaulting a police officer said the officer choked her and slammed her to the ground.
Cleveland.com reports 18-year-old Angelina Martinez, of Lakewood, said in a telephone interview that she thought she was going to die when Sgt. Christopher Graham picked her up by the throat and threw her to the pavement on Sept. 12.
"I couldn't breathe with his hands around my throat," Martinez said. "When he put me in handcuffs, I was actually relieved because I felt like at least he couldn't kill me now."
Graham was charged Thursday with misdemeanor assault and unlawful restraint. He pleaded not guilty Friday in Cleveland Municipal Court and was allowed to remain free on a personal bond.
The president of Cleveland's Fraternal Order of Police chapter said the union stands by Graham and will provide him the best defense possible. Graham has been placed on restricted duty pending the outcome of his criminal case.
Martinez said she was with friends at a Cleveland gas station when a fight broke out. Police responded, handcuffed the combatants and placed them in the back of a cruiser.
Martinez, who was not involved in the fight, said she tried to tell one of her friends goodbye. She said Graham ordered her away from the cruiser and she used an obscene gesture and then was attacked by Graham.
An officer at the scene wrote a report that said Martinez was arrested after she tried to kick Graham in the crotch while being handcuffed. Cleveland police Internal Affairs Division detectives concluded the allegation was untrue. A felony assault on a police officer charge against Martinez was dropped two weeks later in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.
Cleveland.com also has reported that the city settled two lawsuits against Graham that described allegations of similar behavior.
The city paid $14,000 to a former girlfriend of Graham's in 2003. She sued after Graham told officers to arrest her for trespassing at a home where she and Graham lived at the time.
In 2005, the city paid $7,500 to a man who received a parking ticket from Graham. The lawsuit said they argued and Graham chased the man into a coffee shop, hit him on the head with a flashlight, threw him into a shelf of coffee mugs and then pinned him to the floor with his hands around his neck.
Information from: cleveland.com, http://www.cleveland.com