Cop guilty of assault, but will justice prevail?
By Charlene Muhammad, The Final Call
LOS ANGELES (The Final Call) – An 11-woman, one-man jury unanimously convicted LAPD Officer Mary O’Callaghan of assaulting Black South L.A. mother Alesia Thomas.
While the verdict issued in a packed courtroom June 5 was better than allowing Ofc. O’Callaghan to walk away without any accountability, justice has yet to be served, said Ms. Thomas’ grandmother Ada Moses, legal experts, and activists interviewed by The Final Call.
Ofc. O’Callaghan could get three years in jail or be released on probation. She is being held without bail until she is sentenced on July 23.
“I think that they did the right thing, but she should have gotten more time. Three years, that’s nothing,” Ms. Moses told The Final Call.
She said if she could speak to Ofc. O’Callaghan directly, she’d ask her, “If you think about what you did to my granddaughter, how would you feel if that was your daughter, and tell me what would you think or say about it.
“What would you do about it, and what do you think I should do about my granddaughter?” Ms. Moses continued.
Although Ms. Thomas, 35, died July 22, 2012, following a struggle with the officers who attempted to arrest her at her home after she left her children ages 12 and three outside a police station at 2 a.m., Ofc. O’Callaghan was only charged with felony assault, but nothing remotely indicating she caused a death. Ms. Thomas, who struggled with mental health issues, brought her children to police because she could no longer care for them.
Human rights Attorney Nana Gyamfi said she preferred Ofc. O’Callaghan be found guilty than not guilty, but argued she was grossly undercharged. “She was not found guilty of a crime that indicates the truth, which is that her actions caused Alesia Thomas’ death, not even an involuntary manslaughter,” she stated. But O’Callaghan committed a felony and that felony caused a death, Atty. Gyamfi pointed out.
“If it was any other Black person in this city or in this state, that person would be charged with felony murder, first degree murder. Again, better guilty than not guilty, but she has gotten away with murder,” Atty. Gyamfi told The Final Call.
“Our family is pleased that the officer was convicted on the charge that was brought by the Los Angeles District Attorney; this is another step in the continued struggle to obtain full justice for her children,” read a statement by Ms. Thomas’ family.
“For the past 34 months, we have fought for America to see how our loved one, Alesia Thomas, died in the custody of L.A.P.D. Our family prays that the unedited video will be released soon,” the statement continued. Attorney Benjamin Crump released the statement on Twitter moments after the verdict.
Ofc. O’Callaghan could also be terminated from the LAPD if her conviction is not overturned on appeal, according to her attorney Robert Rico. He told reporters during a press conference outside the courthouse he’d be petitioning the judge for a new trial after sentencing.
Atty. Rico said jurors’ emotional reactions to what they saw on dash cam video and not the evidence undergirded their decision to convict. The footage depicted Ofc. O’Callaghan laughing and smoking a cigarette after she’d struck Ms. Thomas in the neck, verbally berated her and stomped her in the stomach and groin.
With the civility and humanity she and fellow officers denied Ms. Thomas during her arrest, Sheriff deputies handcuffed Ofc. O’Callaghan and took her into custody.
When asked by The Final Call if Ofc. O’Callaghan expressed remorse for what she did to Ms. Thomas, Atty. Rico said no, because Ms. Thomas was facing criminal charges.
“The force that was used by Ofc. O’Callaghan she’s always felt has been reasonable and necessary under the circumstances,” he said.
He said his client is far from callous. “Mary O’Callaghan is the type of officer that the residents in the housing projects will tell you buys children Halloween costumes at Halloween when she finds out they didn’t have a Halloween costume,” he said. He also said she’d bring children in the projects candy to pass out at Halloween and gifts at Christmas.
Such actions should be viewed through a lens of certain skepticism some activists point out.
“When we see these videos of a cop giving a Black child a hug, and these videos of these cops playing basketball, picking up a pick-up game with young Black men in the neighborhood, it’s like all of that is something that we need to stop in our community,” said Atty. Gyamfi.
“We’ve got to stop teaching our children that these police officers are benign and that they care about them and that they love them because they pass them candy, because tomorrow they can pass them candy at 4 o’clock and at 5 o’clock, they’re kicking their mom in the genitals … killing them and getting away with it,” she added.
“It’s ridiculous, but it goes to, and is a reminder for, those who have forgotten for some reason … a reminder to us Black people, really how we’re being looked at and what is happening,” said Atty. Gyamfi.