The trial of a Maryland police officer accused of using excessive force against a restrained suspect began Monday.
Video appears to show Montgomery County Officer Kevin Moris kneeing Arnaldo Pesoa in the head while Pesoa was on the ground July 3 in Aspen Hill.
In opening statements, prosecutors told jurors Moris and other officers were trying to arrest Pesoa for illegally selling hallucinogenic mushrooms. Pesoa resisted but finally was detained.
Prosecutors said video clearly shows Moris broke the law by hitting Pesoa’s head into the pavement while the suspect was in handcuffs.
“A knee drop to an individual in the back of his head while he’s on his stomach with a bunch of officers around is criminal,” the prosecution said.
But Moris’ defense said Moris was assaulted by Pesoa first.
The defense said while on the ground, Pesoa spit blood on Moris.
“Kevin had every right to defend himself against a deadly attack by doing a knee strike,” the defense said.
Moris’ defense said officers are trained to see bodily fluids like blood as a dangerous threat, which is why Moris acted quickly to protect himself.
“In December of 2017, Kevin, while dealing with an unruly person, he got blood on his hands,” the defense said. “He had to go through six months of testing to confirm he didn’t have HIV.”
Moris is charged with second-degree assault and police misconduct.
He declined to speak with News4 outside of court in Rockville Monday.