The City Attorney’s Office on Wednesday charged Seattle Police Department Officer James J. Lee with one count of Fourth-Degree Assault, a gross misdemeanor, following a criminal investigation by the Washington State Patrol. Lee was videotaped kicking a 17-year-old boy in a downtown convenience store on Oct. 18, 2010 during an arrest for an undercover buy-bust operation.
“We understand that our police officers have a dangerous job,” City Attorney Pete Holmes said. “They are thus permitted the legal ability to use reasonable force in apprehending people suspected of having committed a crime. When the force used is not reasonable under the circumstances, the officer must be held accountable.”
In an uncommon move, Police Chief John Diaz requested an outside criminal investigation, the results of which were delivered to CAO’s Criminal Division Chief Craig Sims late last month.
Lee, who joined SPD in 1999, is on administrative reassignment. If convicted, he faces a maximum term of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. He is scheduled to be arraigned at 2 p.m. April 29 in #302 of Seattle Municipal Court.
Lee’s actions were among those listed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and 34 community and civil-rights organizations in a request to the U.S. Justice Department to investigate whether Seattle police have engaged in a pattern of violating the civil rights of suspects, particularly minorities. A formal probe began recently.
The teen was charged with first-degree attempted robbery but later acquitted in King County Superior Court. In February he filed a claim seeking $450,000 from the City or a jury trial, saying he was the victim of “unjustified and excessive force.”
Seattle Municipal Code
Chapter 12A.06 - Offenses Against Persons
SMC 12A.06.010 Assault.
A person is guilty of assault when he or she: A. Intentionally assaults another person; or B. (1) Knowingly operates or knowingly is in actual physical control of a vehicle; and (2) while doing so commits any act defined as an infraction under Title 11, Seattle Municipal Code or Title 46, Revised Code of Washington; and (3) such conduct is a proximate cause of death, great bodily harm or substantial bodily harm to another. As used in this Subsection B,"great bodily harm" and "substantial bodily harm" have the same meanings as in RCW 9A.04.110, as that statute now exists or may hereafter be amended,and "vehicle" has the same meaning as in SMC 11.14.710. This Subsection B is intended to protect the public welfare. No mens rea element that is not specifically stated in this Subsection B shall be inferred or required.
Prosecution or punishment under this Subsection B shall not preclude separate prosecution or punishment for any other crime.
Reference DocumentsCriminal Complaint, City v James Lee
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