ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A Jacksonville attorney who is representing a man who was shocked and repeatedly beaten by St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office deputies said it’s one of the worse cases of police brutality he has seen locally.
“It’s just so abusive and it just goes on for so long,” attorney John Phillips, who specializes in police brutality cases, told News4Jax on Wednesday.
Video recorded by a witness shows what happened after Christopher Butler was pulled over on Dec. 29 by Florida Highway Patrol.
An FHP trooper shocked him with a Taser and St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office deputies beat him in an effort to get Butler to lie still. The three deputies involved were then put on leave with pay pending an investigation after two videos of the confrontation emerged.
According to the arrest report written by deputies, Butler was not cooperating which led to him being shocked by an FHP trooper and then beaten and kicked by deputies. Phillips said it’s much worse than what can be seen in the video.
“They just kicked him and used a baton and tased him over and over,” Phillips said.
Following his arrest, Butler was evaluated at a local hospital and tests reportedly showed that he was under the influence of PCP at the time of his arrest, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
“He was not high on PCP and any statement to that effect is going to result in defamation,” Phillips said. “He was having, as we understand it, a diabetic or blood sugar event throughout the course of this. Regardless, even if he was hopped up on whatever, you can’t just beat somebody because they’re high on drugs.”
Phillips said he has talked to Butler, who is still being held in St. Johns County jail on a charge of resisting arrest and battery on a law enforcement officer. Phillips said he will be representing Butler on the criminal charges and then they will work on the potential civil rights violations.
It’s familiar territory for Phillips, who represents Mayra Martinez. In 2016, Martinez was seen on video being struck by a JSO officer outside a local strip club and then again as she was being taken to jail. That case is still in federal court.
Phillips said Butler’s case ranks right up there.
“We are still investigating what happened,” Phillips said. “We did check on the deputies’ background and found they have many commendations and three reprimands. But there is one other recent excessive force case being investigated concerning one of the deputies.”
News4Jax reported Tuesday that case involves deputy Tony Deleo. According to the arrest report, Deleo along with Joseph McGinnis and Patrick Ponticello, were the deputies involved in the Butler traffic stop.
Because the incident involving Butler is still under investigation, the Sheriff’s Office is not commenting outside of confirming that three of their deputies have been placed on paid administrative leave. FHP said its trooper is under investigation as well.