When Deputy Bryan Johnson was questioned about what happened during an arrest at a Washington Road nightclub, he told fellow officers that there was a struggle but that he never hit the handcuffed suspect.
“At no time did I beat him while he was handcuffed,” Johnson told Richmond County sheriff’s investigators about the July 24, 2009, arrest of Christopher Kersey.
The problem, then-Lt. Scott Peebles told Johnson on the taped statement played for jurors Thursday, is that Johnson’s version of the events didn’t match what others said or even what he put in his written report. His comments also didn’t account for the injuries dealt to Kersey, Peebles said.
Ex-Deputy Johnson, 33, has pleaded not guilty to aggravated battery. His Richmond County Superior Court trial, which began Tuesday, could end today.
“Honestly, Lieutenant, I can’t see myself doing that,” Johnson said on the recording as investigators pressed him. Asked whether he could have lost control and hit Kersey repeatedly, he said, “Yes, sir, it’s possible,” but he insisted that he didn’t remember doing such a thing.
Asked whether he visited the records division the next day and demonstrated to clerks how he had kneed Kersey in the face, Johnson said he might have done so. Asked whether he pulled Kersey’s booking photo up on the computer to show the clerks how he had paid Kersey back for hitting him in the face, Johnson denied he was bragging. He just wanted to see what Kersey looked like because he felt bad that Kersey had gotten hurt, Johnson said.
“Hurting somebody isn’t why I got into this job,” Johnson said.
The taped statement was the last of the prosecution’s evidence.
Johnson’s attorney, Jacque Hawk, brought in witnesses to raise several lines of defense: that Kersey was a violent, combative person based on an incident in Aiken five years earlier that resulted in a disorderly conduct conviction; and that it was other deputies who punched Kersey.
Christy Jordan, who was working the door at the Country Club that night, testified that she had a clear view of what happened after Kersey was removed from the club. She said it was Deputy Joe Micheaux who hit or punched at Kersey’s face while he was handcuffed on the ground. She knew both Micheaux and Johnson, who worked second jobs at the club providing security.
Johnson will not testify, he said Thursday. The last evidence to be presented this morning is a videotaped deposition of another witness who was working the door that night. Hawk said it will portray Micheaux as the abusive arresting officer.