ITHACA, N.Y. — Late Thursday, the six-member jury in the Brown V. Hoffman case ruled in favor of Deputy Gerald Hoffman on all three counts.
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The jury, composed of five women and one man, all white, ruled that Hoffman had probable cause to arrest Angela Brown, did not use excessive force during the arrest, and did not arrest the defendant in retaliation for her use of free speech.
While the exact votes are unknown, the jury foreman said the vote was not unanimous.
What was the claim?
On June 9, 2007, Brown’s daughter did not arrive on her scheduled flight, at which point Brown became worried and went to speak with US Airways employees. About 15 minutes later, she was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest by Hoffman. Brown’s daughter — now in the Navy — was 14 at the time, flying alone from North Carolina.
William Troy, an attorney defending Hoffman, said that the case came down to choices, and that Brown “made the choice to put her child on a flight she shouldn’t have set foot on. Ms. Brown’s anger, lack of judgement, and intent to have her way took over here.”
Edward Kopko, who is Brown’s attorney, told the jury in his closing arguments that they were the only ones who could determine if the police acted fairly.
“In our little community here in upstate New York, we are going to judge the police, and we are going to decide if the police are reasonable, because it is our job, and because the police can’t do it themselves,” he said.
He also questioned why there was no departmental review, or additional training for Hoffman. “Asking the police to police themselves is like asking John Gotti to denounce the evils of organized crime,” he said.
Kopko said that Hoffman could have handled this situation with more empathy, and kept Brown’s rights intact. He suggested that Hoffman had another motive: “sneaky, insidious racism. This tiny black woman, surrounded by whites, was trying to find her daughter. Would we even be standing here if that was a tiny white woman?”
But Troy said that this case was not about race, telling the jury, “I would say that for you to suggest any racial overplay is really improper. There’s no evidence to suggest that.”
The jury deliberated for almost three hours before reaching the verdict.