Lawyer for woman beaten by officer looks at libel suit
John Phillips says State Attorney's Office lied about Mayra Martinez
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The attorney for a woman beaten by a Jacksonville police officer while wearing handcuffs said he might sue the State Attorney's Office for libel after it released information about his client in a disposition statement that the attorney said is untrue.
After prosecutors released the statement, which explained why they would not be filing felony charges against the officer, John Phillips announced that he would be requesting that an independent prosecutor review the case.
Phillips also accused the State Attorney's Office of lying about his client in the statement.
His client, Mayra Martinez, was arrested in April on charges of trespassing and resisting arrest. A violent takedown during her arrest was captured on video by a bystander in the parking lot of Scores, an adult club on University Boulevard at Philips Highway.
Surveillance video at the Duval County jail later captured Martinez being shoved against a wall and punched by Officer Akinyemi Borisade while she was still in handcuffs in the sally port. Video inside the jail showed a third altercation, this time between Martinez and a female corrections officer.
The female corrections officer can then be seen in the video grabbing Martinez by the hair and pushing her to the floor after Martinez removed her clothes to take off her belly ring and threw them on the floor. Five male officers are called in to help subdue Martinez while she is naked.
Borisade was immediately fired by JSO, but the videos from that day have set off a firestorm in Jacksonville over how JSO handles arrests, and the disposition statement released by the State Attorney's Office this week added to the flames.
It detailed the criminal background of Martinez, who is the victim in the case, and included medical and other details that Phillips said are false.
“It’s libel. She was libeled. I need to look and see if this is an official record that provides some level of immunity or not,” Phillips said. “If not, there is the possibility of an official claim for libel or criminal libel.”
According to the disposition statement, Martinez, who was charged with trespassing and resisting arrest, was acting erratically.
The disposition statement included details of a 2004 armed robbery arrest and said that Martinez was arrested for DUI in 2012 after drinking three Long Islands and smoking marijuana and that she was arrested in Orange County for resisting and disturbing the peace in 2014. She was convicted of disorderly conduct and brawling and fighting.
Phillips said releasing the disposition report, which contained humiliating details about Martinez, was intended to attack her credibility in defense of Borisade.
“I'm worried about where we're heading as a city,” Phillips said. “We've got too many issues that are going on unaddressed, and this started as an incident at a parking lot but then turned into an incident in a jail. That … turned into an incident inside the jail and turned into incident after incident and misrepresentations since then.”
The disposition statement also mentioned that Borisade had a criminal history of his own -- petit theft prior to becoming an officer.
Phillips said he wants to complete the case surrounding the officer and his client first, and do that he wants to get a special prosecutor involved. But filing a suit against the State Attorney's Office is a possibility later.
Assistant State Attorney Rich Mantei, who released the disposition statement, said the potential lawsuit is not a concern. He said the statement is a legal document and the background on Martinez is important to the case.
“Well, anytime we're having to assess the relative credibility of any witness, be that the defendant or be that a witness in the case or victim or otherwise, all those things are relevant. We have to take all those things into account, and a lot of other things as well,” Mantei said. “We don't get to ignore it and not mention it. Those are written internal documents. They are our justifications for what we're doing, but it's not as though that stuff is irrelevant. A jury, if a case were to go to trial, would be instructed to consider all of those things.”
As the debate over the case continues, another attorney who specializes in libel law said Phillips might not have a case against the State Attorney's Office.
Attorney George Gabel said because the disposition statement is an official court document, it would be covered against any libel lawsuit.
“The charging report or the official document going out is making some unfortunate statements about the victim in the case, but the job of the State Attorney's Office is to bring charges and opinions about potential criminal activity, and she or he is immune from suit in the performance of duty, just as a judge would be,” Gabel said.
Mantei said he will let Gov. Rick Scott respond to Phillips' demand for a special prosecutor, but he said the State Attorney's Office has been more than fair in the case.
“You do this job long enough, most of the decisions we make make someone unhappy on one side or another,” Mantei said. “You get used to that, and if you're not mature enough to handle that without letting it get to you personally, then you shouldn't be doing it.”
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