Closing Arguments in Horse Pursuit Beating Trial

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Closing arguments began Monday in the case of three deputies charged with the felony assault after the controversial beating of a man who led a pursuit on a horse was caught on camera.

The closing arguments were centered around the video captured exclusively by NewsChopper4. Footage shows three San Bernardino County deputies repeatedly punching and kicking Francis Pusok while he was lying facedown after an April 2015 chase.

The prosecution argued the video doesn’t lie, but the defense argued the video doesn’t tell the whole story. They disagreed how much of a threat the suspect was at that very moment.

In his closing argument, the prosecutor admitted Pusok was not a sympathetic victim, and he had a long criminal record. But he said that doesn’t justify what happened.

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“The law of California is the servant of all people and that includes the people you detest,” Robert Bulloch said.

Bulloch argued it was anger that drove deputies Nicholas Downey, Michael Phelps and Charles Foster. He played audio where deputies called Pusok a “dumb” expletive, who was “crying like a little” expletive, and “piece of” expletive. All the while, Bulloch argued, Pusok was lying on the ground and had surrendered.

“[With] Mr Pusok’s hands behind his back, we see his legs spread out. He’s not in an attack position. He’s not in a threatening position,” Bulloch said. “The video is the truth. It’s not lying. It’s not distorting.”

Deputies Downey, Foster, and Phelps were each charged with one felony count of assault by a public officer under color of authority.

Monday afternoon, the defense argued the deputies did what they had to do.

“Statewide training for these deputies allows for the use of force to overcome resistance,” defense attorney Heather Phillips said.

Phillips argued Newschopper4’s video doesn’t tell the whole story. She said it doesn’t show the viewpoint of the deputies — and that Pusok resisted them even though you don’t necessarily see it.

“The video has a lot of obstruction in it there are bushes, there are people,” Phillips said. “My client doesn’t see what’s going on from this vantage point. He has no idea that is what it looks like from the air.”

She reminded the jurors when there are two reasonable interpretations of what happened, by law they must pick the one that presumes innocence – that emotions cannot be a factor in their decision, and that use of force doesn’t always look pretty.

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