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Friday, October 17, 2008

Update: Juanita Young acquitted

Juanita Young, a Bronx resident and anti-police brutality activist, was acquitted of all charges against her this afternoon.

A jury deliberated for about two hours before finding Young not guilty of second-degree obstruction of government administration; fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon; two counts of third-degree attempted assault ; and two counts of second-degree attempted harassment.

The charges stemmed from an incident at Young's home in November 2006. Young's oldest daughter, Saran, called 911 because her sister, D'Nai, was emotionally distressed. Prosecutors alleged that after police arrived at the Young residence, Juanita Young attempted to prevent police from entering her home and that, once officers were inside, Young threw several cans at them.

But Young denied attempting to prevent police from entering her home. And she said it was actually police who assaulted her: Young, who is partially blind and asthmatic, said several officers kicked her repeatedly in her bedroom, and that she sustained head, chest, and back injuries that hospitalized her for several days.

During closing arguments, Young's lawyer, Geoffrey Stewart, said Young did not throw cans but rather a cake-frosting container, and that she did so after being brutalized by officers. Stewart told jurors that the act was spontaneous and done out of self-defense, because Young had reasonable cause to believe there was danger of physical force being used against her.

"She saw a hand coming toward her, and this was the first thing she could grab and throw," Stewart told the jury.

In addition, Young argued that she had reason to fear the police because of her past experiences with law enforcement: In 2000, Young's son, 23-year-old Malcolm Fergusson, was unarmed when NYPD Officer Louis Rivera shot and killed him. In 2003, Young alleged officers threw her down the stairs while arresting her. Last year, Young won civil suits against the City stemming from both cases.

Stewart told jurors during closing arguments that Young raised her past experiences with police to officers in her home. " You done killed my son. And you've abused me. I'm not gonna let you touch my child," Stewart quoted Young as telling officers, before adding: "So she did take on the cops that day. She didn't do it with cans. She did it with words."

After the verdict was announced, Young hugged Stewart and her other lawyer, David Rankin, and said "Thank you."

"I'm so glad justice was done here," Young told the Horizon outside the courtroom. "The jury saw through the lies that was told. I'm just glad the people see the cops' word is not bonded."


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