INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Authorities are preparing to charge former Philadelphia Police Lt. Jonathan Josey with simple assault for punching a woman in the face during a street party in September, sources confirmed Wednesday.

Josey, a decorated 19-year veteran of the department, was fired last month after a cellphone video of the punch went viral and drew international attention.

John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, the largest officers' union, said the organization would continue to support Josey and appeal to get him reinstated.

"It's insane," McNesby said of the news that Josey would face charges. "This is a direct result of the headlines. . . . He put his life on the line for his career, and he's being treated like a criminal."

The District Attorney's Office declined to comment, but McNesby said he had a "heated discussion" with the office about the pending charges Wednesday afternoon.

"We have a D.A. who's caving under pressure instead of standing up for what's right," McNesby said.

Josey was captured on a cellphone video punching 39-year-old Aida Guzman in the face during a crowded street party in North Philadelphia following the city's annual Puerto Rican Day parade.

Josey and other officers reportedly thought Guzman, of Chester, had thrown something at them during the chaos. Within days, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey announced Josey's firing, and Mayor Nutter apologized to Guzman.

Guzman's lawyer, Enrique Latoison, said he and his client were happy with the decision.

"We do think it was closer to aggravated assault, but we are glad he is being charged," he said. "It's the right thing to do."

Rochelle Bilal, president of the Guardian Civic League, an organization of black police officers, said she thought Josey erred in striking Guzman. But she also has criticized Ramsey's swift decision to fire Josey, saying he could have received a lighter punishment, such as a suspension without pay.

"I think they overreacted in firing him, and I think they're still overreacting," Bilal said. "He made a mistake, but it didn't have to wipe away his whole career. And now for them to charge him . . . I think it's a shame."

 


Contact Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or asteele@phillynews.com.

 

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