JOLIET – A teen whose September arrest by Joliet police was recorded and posted on social media was found not guilty on Thursday of all criminal charges.
Dae R. Roberson, now 19, had been charged with resisting arrest and aggravated battery to a police officer after the Sept. 19 incident.
Roberson had been released from the Will County jail Monday, after his trial was delayed for a day. Though defense attorneys Robert Pervan and Greg Reeder were ready to proceed the next day, Will County Assistant State's Attorney Steve Platek told Judge Amy Bertani-Tomczak that two police officers were unavailable to testify for the prosecution.
At 6:19 p.m. on Sept. 19, officers arrived at Benton Street and Youngs Avenue to find about 20 people standing in the roadway, according to police. Roberson allegedly ignored commands to move to a nearby fence and started walking away. As Officer Kent Liebermann brought Roberson to the fence, Roberson struggled and shoved Liebermann before he was taken to the ground, Platek said.
Pervan said a cellphone video shows the officer punched Roberson twice while the suspect's arm was also being held by Officer Robert Campos. Police said at the time Liebermann used "distraction strikes" to get Roberson to submit to being handcuffed.
A pocketknife fell out of Roberson's clothes during the incident, but Platek and Reeder agreed Roberson had a legal right to carry it. Bertani-Tomczak, who decided the case as a bench trial instead of a jury trial, was shown the nine-second video several times as the attorneys presented their cases.
Platek said several shootings had been reported in the area of Benton Street and Youngs Avenue in the days leading up to the incident and the officers would be expected to protect their own safety during a struggle.
"People's rights and the Constitution don't just disappear in a 'high-crime' area," Pervan countered.
Roberson said he has no gang affiliations and testified Wednesday he did not try struggling with the police officers. Liebermann and Campos did not testify during the trial, but a transcript of grand jury proceedings was submitted as evidence.
After arguments were completed, Bertani-Tomczak said the prosecution's case had "not met the burden of proof" and found Roberson not guilty.
"This was a great opportunity to have our client exonerated," Reeder said. "It shows all of the differences people have had with law enforcement recently need to be resolved in a courtroom."
Now that the criminal matter has been resolved, Roberson "may consider" a lawsuit against the department, his attorneys said.