After courts found two police officers guilty in connection with the death of her son, a Washington, D.C., mother found herself in handcuffs and arrested for disorderly conduct.
Karen Hylton confronted the men as soon as the ruling was rendered and is now accused of assaulting a federal police officer.
On Wednesday, Dec. 21, Hylton, 54, whose son died from a crash as a result of being chased by an officer in an unmarked vehicle was carried away out of a courtroom by U.S. Marshals after the cops were found guilty, the Washington Post reports.
Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia presided over the case and after five days of deliberations, received the jury’s verdict against Terence Sutton and Andrew Zabavsky.
The 20-year-old’s death sparked demonstrations, many in front of the 4th District D.C. police station, protesting the department’s over-policing practices during the summer of civil unrest in 2020.
However, according to WUSA 9, the jury struggled with the verdict and on Tuesday asked if Friedman could provide clarity on the definition of two key phrases: “conscious disregard” and “extreme risk.”
Lawyers for the officers argued Hylton’s son was unlawfully driving a moped on the sidewalk without a helmet, a misdemeanor traffic crime, in the Brightwood Park area of northwest Washington, D.C. The officers started to chase him in the unmarked vehicle, zipping through neighborhood streets for over 10 blocks and even through an alleyway. When the man exited the alleyway, Sutton accelerated behind him, prosecutors said, and he was hit by another vehicle, suffering severe head trauma from the collision.
Two days later, he died from his injuries.
While it took two years to come to trial, the actual proceedings lasted under two months. The prosecution presented a case showing Sutton and other officers illegally and recklessly pursued Hylton-Brown on Oct. 23, 2020, resulting in his death. The pursuit lasted only a matter of minutes and twisted down through the residential area. Body-camera footage confirmed that Sutton accelerated behind Hylton-Brown causing the fatal crash.
A press release from the Justice Department said Sutton, 38, was convicted of second-degree murder, conspiracy to obstruct and the obstruction of justice. The former lieutenant, Zabavsky, 54, was convicted of conspiracy to obstruct and obstruction of justice.
In an emotionally charged outburst, the mother got out of her seat in the federal courtroom after the verdict and blasted the officers accusing them of “tormenting” the community. As the marshals tried to de-escalate the situation, Hylton continued to buck up, ultimately tussling with the officers. The mother was arrested and charged with assaulting a federal police officer. She spent the night in jail for the offense.
According to the Justice Department, at the time of the incident Sutton was a member of DC’s Crime Suppression Team in the Fourth Police District and the lieutenant was his supervisor.
While Zabavsky was not directly involved with Hylton-Brown’s demise, prosecutors said he worked with Sutton in an attempt to cover up the chase and details around the deadly crash.
Sutton’s attorney, J. Michael Hannon said his client was justified in chasing Hylton-Brown because they thought the young man was about to commit a crime. Hannon argued that he was a known member of the Kennedy Street gang and the officers believed he was about to go seek revenge for an earlier argument.
Zabavsky’s attorney released a statement saying, “While we, like many, were surprised and disappointed by the findings of the jury, we are confident that justice will be served in the post-verdict process, including appeal.”
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Robert J. Contee III said in reaction to the verdict, “There will be officers who will take this and think about what happened,” adding the force will work to bring to a close an administrative review of the incident.
Contee said to CNN, “Since the beginning of this process, MPD has supported the independent and thorough review process conducted by the United States Attorney’s Office. We have confidence in our judicial system, and we trust that the jury examined all the facts, deliberated carefully, and arrived at their decision fairly.”
Despite the conviction, the chief said he is waiting for the internal discovery to determine if the officers should be fired. The two officers are currently suspended.
The weeks of testimony were difficult on the mother, with the judge having to eject her once for weeping loudly during the trial.
Hylton was released from custody on Thursday, Dec. 22. She said her behavior was a form of protest directing attention to points about how rare it is to see a police officer convicted for crimes against Black and brown people. Sutton’s conviction is the first time a D.C. police officer has been convicted of murder while in the line of duty, according to reports.
“The message I’m sending is they can’t get away with it,” Hylton said. “We knew he was guilty. We just needed somebody to put a stamp on it.”
The mother also said she did not assault anyone, saying the deputy marshal lied.
“These officers killed my child and lied about it,” she said. “Then on the same day the verdicts came out, they locked me up and lied about it.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed no charges were filed against Hylton. However, the representative stated an investigation was underway. Representatives for the U.S. Marshals Service declined to comment on the arrest.
Currently, both officers are awaiting sentencing. A federal district court judge will determine how many years they get after considering sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
The two suspended cops both face a statutory maximum of five years for the conspiracy charge and a maximum of 20 years for the obstruction of justice charge. Sutton faces up to 40 years in prison for the murder charge. Both are free on bond pending sentencing.