Officer Acquitted In High-Profile Case

A former police inspector in Philadelphia was acquitted of assault charges that were brought against him following a protest over racial injustice in 2020.

Joseph Bologna, who is 57 years old, was acquitted of his charges of simple assault and possessing an instrument of crime.

The incident in question happened in June of 2020, when protesters took to Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia after George Floyd was murdered while in police custody in Minneapolis. The incident was recorded on video, and included Bologna using a baton against a protester.

In his closing arguments, Fortunato Perri Jr., Bologna’s defense attorney, said that the last three-and-a-half years have been a “nightmare” for his client since the incident happened.

He cited Philadelphia’s own police code section that says that use of force is justified when a person either resists arrest or appears to threaten bodily harm against an officer.

The defense attorney said Bologna’s decision to hit the Temple University student, who as 21 years old at the time, was a “quick decision” in a “rapidly evolving” situation. The student attempted to intervene in a separate arrest that was happening.

According to Perri, a medical examination that was performed found that Bologna didn’t strike the protester with the baton directly on his head. A separate internal affairs investigation also didn’t find any evidence that Bologna violated any departmental procedures.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that testimony that a city medical examiner would’ve given to the jury would have revealed that the student was struck in the upper back with the baton and not on the head. He also suffered a bloody laceration, but that came from the bike helmet that the officer was wearing.

After the video of the incident was circulated widely on social media, other reports began to surface about how Bologna acted during the protest. He was then fired from his position.

Prosecutors in the case argued that Bologna did not use typical use of force. A former officer in Utah who is now a teacher and researcher testified for them, saying the protesters wasn’t in any position to harm the officer at the time that he was struck.

Originally, Bologna was charged with multiple counts of reckless endangerment and aggravated assault. In 2021, a judge dismissed those charges.

However, two of the counts were later reinstated by a separate judge, and those are the two charges on which Bologna was charged.

Protests exploded around the country following the death of Floyd, which occurred on May 25, 2020.

Four Minneapolis police officers were charged with various crimes for their roles in his death.

Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering Floyd and was sentenced to serve 22.5 years in state prison for that crime. He was also sentenced to 21 years behind bars in a federal case for violating Floyd’s civil rights. Those sentences are being served simultaneously.

While serving that sentence at FCI Tucson, Chauvin was seriously injured when he was stabbed by another inmate in November 2023.