Providence, RI – A Providence police officer was acquitted of assault charges in a bench trial on Wednesday for striking a former political foe last summer.
Providence Police Officer Jeann Lugo was accused of having attacked Rhode Island Political Cooperative co-founder Jennifer Rourke during a pro-abortion rally in front of the Rhode Island State House in June, WPRI reported.
Officer Lugo was running against Rourke for state senate at the time of the altercation.
He was not on duty when they tussled, WPRI reported.
But the altercation was captured on cell phone video and quickly went viral, resulting in charges against Officer Lugo.
The officer was also placed on paid administrative leave while the court case played out, with his police department moving to fire him then, WPRI reported.
A bench trial on Nov. 16 before District Court Judge Joseph Houlihan ended with a full acquittal for Officer Lugo.
Houlihan acknowledged in his ruling that the off-duty Officer Lugo had struck his political opponent, but said the video showed he did so only to break free from Rourke’s grasp.
The judge said the video showed Rourke was trying to keep Officer Lugo from responding to the melee at the rally taking place in front of the state house the day that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, WPRI reported.
Houlihan said Officer Lugo’s actions were not unreasonable and said he thought the officer was trying to keep public order and was therefore justified.
In August, the same judge dismissed a disorderly conduct charge against Officer Lugo in connection with the same incident, WPRI reported.
The Providence Police Department had indicated that it planned to fire Officer Lugo pending the outcome of his trial.
But if they attempt to do that after he was acquitted, it will trigger a hearing for the officer under the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, WPRI reported.
The charges against Officer Lugo effectively knocked him out of the state senate race.
But his Democratic opponent, Rourke, lost to her GOP challenger, WPRI reported.