By Andrea Lorenz
HOUSTON (Reuters) - A former Houston police officer went on trial on Monday on charges related to the beating an unarmed teenage suspect in 2010 that was captured on a video that went viral, making national news in a racially charged case.
Former police officer Drew Ryser, 32, is charged with official oppression, a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. He is accused of kneeing, kicking and pushing then-15-year-old Chad Holley's head into the ground.
In the video, several officers can be seen striking and kicking Holley, an African-American burglary suspect, as he lay on the ground with his hands behind his back and in handcuffs.
The city fired seven police officers in relation to the incident, and four were charged. Two ex-officers accepted a plea deal and one was acquitted after a trial before an all-white jury.
In April, Ryser declined a plea deal that would have resulted in probation and an automatic 10-year suspension of his peace officer license.
Ryser's attorney, Carson Joachim, said his actions did not violate city policy.
"In fact, it was quite the opposite," Joachim said in an interview. "They were apprehending a felony suspect who they believed to be possibly armed, and while taking him into custody, they're trained to use a modicum level of force to effectuate the arrest, and that's exactly what he did."
Special Prosecutor Jon Munier said police should be held accountable to the law, just as criminals are.
"The public always has an interest in the integrity of their police officers, the public always has an interest in the police not using excessive violence or force or mistreating prisoners," Munier said in an interview. "It's that simple. This is the only check and balance on the system."
Harris County Prosecutor Mike Anderson recused himself because his wife, also an attorney, gave legal advice to another officer involved in the case who was not charged.
Former officers Raad Hassan and Philip Bryan agreed in April to plead no contest to official oppression. Former officer Andrew Blomberg, was acquitted by an all-white jury last year, prompting protests by community members at the courthouse.
The jury for Ryser's trial is "very diverse," Munier said. "Everybody's represented."
Holley will be present during the trial, Munier said. Holley is currently serving six months in jail for an unrelated 2012 felony burglary charge. His attorney, Leticia Quinones, did not return a call for comment.
(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and David Gregorio)