(FOX/CNS) - A female Los Angeles Police Department officer
pleaded not guilty today to an assault charge for allegedly kicking a
handcuffed woman who later died.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba allowed Officer Mary
O'Callaghan, 48, to remain free on her own recognizance pending her next
appearance in Los Angeles Superior Court Dec. 5, when a date is scheduled to be
set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require her to
O'Callaghan was charged last Wednesday with a felony count of assault by
a public officer.
Defense attorney Robert Rico said that he was "shocked" by the
prosecution's decision to file a case against the 19-year LAPD veteran and
retired Marine, saying that he believed her actions were within "policy" and
that she was acting in response to the actions of arrestee Alesia Thomas.
"Once the video is seen, I believe the jury will find my client not
guilty," her lawyer said.
According to police and prosecutors, officers responded to the 35-year-old woman's home in the 9100 block of South Broadway Avenue on July 22, 2012, to investigate allegations that she had abandoned her two children at a police station.
Thomas was arrested, and O'Callaghan helped other officers place the
woman -- who was handcuffed and wearing leg restraints -- in a patrol car.
According to prosecutors, a video camera mounted on a police cruiser captured
O'Callaghan kicking the woman in the stomach and groin area and "pushing" her
in the throat.
Thomas lost consciousness in the patrol car and paramedics were called.
She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead, prosecutors said.
The coroner's office performed an autopsy, but the woman's cause of
death was "undetermined," prosecutors said, noting that there was
insufficient evidence to pursue an involuntary manslaughter charge against
O'Callaghan was removed from duty and is awaiting an LAPD disciplinary hearing. She faces up to three years in prison if convicted.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said O'Callaghan's actions, "as seen on the
video, did not meet the expectations I have of our officers in the field."
"As troubling as this case is, it demonstrates that our system of
discovering misconduct is working, and that we will hold our officers
accountable for their actions," Beck said. "Every single day LAPD officers
are asked to do extraordinary things for people while proudly wearing the LAPD
badge. I hope the community recognizes that the act of one officer cannot and
should not be an overall reflection of this department."
Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the
union representing LAPD officers, said he could not comment on the case but
said O'Callaghan had a good reputation with the department and was known to be
"diligent, courteous and ethical."
"This officer had previously been publicly commended by the LAPD for
community efforts and was publicly commended for helping a burglary victim's
family who lost all their presents at Christmas time," Izen said.