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Orange County NewsFor Immediate Release Contact: Christopher BorekJuly 15, 2019 845.291.3276, 845.238.4245c
District Attorney Hoovler Announces Guilty Pleas to Resisting Arrest and Felony Narcotics Charges by Man Whose Arrest Prompted Inquiry into
Use of Force by Port Jervis Police Officers
Port Jervis Man Pleads Guilty to Resisting Arrest and two counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree
District Attorney’s Office had been asked to Review Recording of City of Port Jervis Police Officers Struggling with Defendant which were Posted on Facebook
Two Civilian Witnesses and other Evidence Showed Use of Force by Police was Lawful
Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler announced today that Shelton Spence, 28, of Port Jervis, pleaded guilty before Orange County Court Judge William L. DeProspo, to two counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Third Degree and one count of Resisting Arrest. When Spence was arrested on May 29, 2019, a recording of the incident, which showed City of Port Jervis police officers struggling with Spence, was created by a passing motorist. That recording was then posted on Facebook, and other social media platforms, prompting inquiries from the public. The Port Jervis Police Department informed the District Attorney’s Office of the incident, and existence of the video, and requested that the District Attorney’s Office investigate the incident. On June 27, 2019, the District Attorney’s Office announced that it had completed its investigation, and that based on interviews of two eyewitnesses, and other evidence, it determined that the police officers’ actions were lawful.
At the time that Spence pleaded guilty, he admitted that on April 10, 2019, he had possessed cocaine in the City of Port Jervis, and that he had intended to sell that cocaine. Spence also admitted that on May 29, 2019, as Port Jervis police officers were attempting to lawfully arrest him for other narcotics offenses, he fled from the police officers and struggled with them to resist being arrested. Spence also admitted that at the time he was arrested on May 29, 2019, he again possessed cocaine that he intended to sell. Pursuant to a plea agreement placed on the record at the time that Spence pleaded guilty, the District Attorney’s Office will recommend that he be sentenced to four years in state prison on each of the felony narcotics charges and one year for resisting arrest, and that those sentences run concurrently. As part of plea agreement, Spence agreed to forfeit $3,060, which prosecutors alleged was the result of narcotics sales.
During the District Attorney’s Office investigation into the May 29, 2019 arrest a witness stated that while was driving in Port Jervis the witness saw officers of the City of Port Jervis Police Department approach a suspect and attempt to apprehend him, but that as they did so the suspect pulled his hands away from the officers and fled down a street. The civilian stated that when officers again approached the suspect, the suspect adopted a fighting stance and pushed his hands aggressively at one officer. The arresting officer was struck in his face. The civilian witness stated that the witness only began recording the incident after this happened, and then stopped recording once the suspect was handcuffed. The civilian also reported that the suspect had resisted being arrested from the time the police initially confronted him and that he struggled with officers both when he was standing, and even after officers had placed him on the ground. The civilian reported that the suspect refused to place his hands behind his back and was not fully under the control of the police until additional officers arrived, at which point the witness ceased recording the incident.
A District Attorney’s Office investigator also interviewed a second civilian eyewitness to the incident who corroborated that the suspect was resisting arrest and had told the officers, “I ain’t going back to jail.” This witness also stated that the suspect was struggling with the police officers even when he was on the ground and that he refused to place his hands behind his back as directed and fought with officers as they tried to grab his hands and handcuff him.
New York State Penal Law Section 35.30 provides that a police officer in the course of effecting an arrest, or of preventing or attempting to prevent the escape from custody of a person he reasonably believes to have committed an offense, may use physical force when and to the extent he reasonably believes such to be necessary to effect the arrest, or to prevent the escape from custody, or in self-defense.
“The evidence showed that this defendant, who was intent on continuing to sell narcotics, clearly had a motive to flee from the police, and struggle with them, to avoid being arrested with additional narcotics,” said District Attorney David M. Hoovler. “I hope that his plea of guilty to Resisting Arrest helps bolster public confidence in the integrity of our investigation, and more importantly in the actions of the City of Port Jervis police officers who apprehended him. I thank the Chief of the Port Jervis Police Department for bringing this matter to our attention and for his department’s assistance in the investigation. Too many tragic situations have occurred when people refuse to comply with lawful orders of the police or resist arrest. I advise anyone who thinks that they are being subjected to illegal police conduct to first submit to the arrest and then contact the District Attorney’s Office or an attorney. These matters can and should be addressed with transparency, and in a setting where neither the person being arrested, the police officers, or members of the public are endangered.”
Spence was prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Matthew Healy.
A criminal charge is merely an allegation that a defendant has committed a violation of the criminal law, and it is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the State’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.