A former Atlanta-area officer is headed to jail after a jury convicted him Thursday in a case of wanton, excessive force against a civilian.
Then-Gwinnett County policeman Robert McDonald was caught on video kicking a handcuffed man in the head following an April 2017 traffic stop. On Thursday, the disgraced officer hung his head low as the judge read the verdicts aloud.
McDonald was found guilty of aggravated assault, battery and violation of oath of office, and now faces up to 26 years in prison, Atlanta station WSB-TV reported. He and his family quietly slipped out a side door, away from cameras after the decision was read.
“He was devastated,” defense attorney Walt Britt told the outlet, adding he doesn’t believe his client deserves to go to jail. “He held out hope [for acquittal.”
Jurors were initially unable to reach a consensus on the aggravated assault charge in their deliberations on Thursday, and asked to review footage of the moment McDonald, 28, stomped 21-year-old Demetrius Hollins as he lay on the ground, handcuffed.
Prosecutors used the video repeatedly throughout the trial, including versions they played in slow motion, according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. After half an hour, the jury returned with a unanimous decision.
McDonald and his former partner and mentor, Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni, were booted from the Gwinnett County Police Department after cellphone video showed them brutalizing and forcefully arresting Hollins. The local college student, who’s Black, was stopped by police over a missing license plate and failure to signal, an incident report showed.
Bongiovanni faced scrutiny after he was filmed sucker punching the young man, even as Hollins stood with his hands visible and in the air. A second witness video then showed McDonald running and kicking the handcuffed man in the head.
McDonald insisted he was aiming for Hollins’ shoulder, not his head.
Bongiovanni pleaded no contest to battery and aggravated assault charges in the case last year and was ordered to serve six months on work release, followed by five months of house arrest. Additionally, he agreed to testify at McDonald’s trial to avoid jail time.
Britt said his client, who was also offered a plea deal and declined, already has plans to appeal the conviction.
McDonald is expected to be sentenced in March.
Watch more in the video below.