Fresno police said Aaminah Norman-Taquee kicked a police officer in the testicles and spit in his face after she resisted arrest during a downtown rally in May for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
But defense lawyer Rebekah Tychsen said in court documents that the Muslim defendant, who stands 5 feet tall and weighs 95 pounds, was a victim of excessive force by Fresno police Officer Mark Witrado. Tychsen also accused Witrado of making false statements in his police report.
On Tuesday, Norman-Taquee denied kicking the officer, but did say she spit at him after he ripped off her hijab, a traditional headgear worn by Muslim women. “He disrespected me and my religion,” Norman-Taquee said minutes before she pleaded no contest in Fresno County Superior Court to misdemeanor resisting arrest.
In exchange for her plea, prosecutors dismissed two felony charges, including assaulting a police officer.
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The plea ends a frightful ordeal for 18-year-old Norman-Taquee, who said she suffered a fracture to her right wrist when officers tackled her on M Street near Selland Arena, where Trump was speaking to thousands of supporters. Police then bound her hands behind her back with zip ties for more than two hours, Tychsen said in court documents.
Police said hundreds of rowdy protesters filled the sidewalks and spilled into the street during the May 27 afternoon rally. Some protesters taunted officers, shouted obscenities and challenged them to a confrontation.
Defense lawyer Rebekah Tychsen said the Muslim defendant was a victim of excessive force by Fresno police officer Mark Witrado
Police never have given an account of what Norman-Taquee did to get arrested, but Witrado’s police report, which is part of the court record, says Norman-Taquee was combative during her arrest and used her right foot to kick him in the groin area. She also spit in his face, the report states.
Norman-Taquee and court records give a different account.
She said she was holding a protest sign when police declared the demonstration an unlawful assembly. According to Norman-Taquee, she was on the sidewalk when officers made a human barricade that pushed her and other protesters into the street.
Once in the street, she decided to sit down on the roadway in order to get arrested.
She became combative and kicked me.
Fresno police officer Mark Witrado
Witrado’s police report says Norman-Taquee initially was going to be cited for unlawful assembly and released. The report says she was arrested when she became combative and fought with Witrado.
Norman-Taquee, however, says in court documents that Witrado started the fight by slamming her face into the ground. He then put zip ties on her wrists and put her in the back of a patrol wagon.
Witrado’s report said he had to take Norman-Taquee’s hajib off her head in order to photograph her as part of the booking process. She, however, told the officer that taking off her hijab was violating her religious rights.
“She became combative and kicked me,” the report says.
Witrado said the blow to his testicles caused him to fall to his knees in pain. He also became dizzy.
He disrespected me and my religion.
But Tychsen said in court documents that “pure physics” would prove that Norman-Taquee did not kick the officer. That’s because Norman-Taquee was sitting, with her hands tied behind her back, in the back of the patrol wagon. Witrado’s report said Norman-Taquee partially stood up in order to kick him.
Witrados’ report says after Norman-Taquee spit at him, he grabbed her neck in order to control her.
In court documents, Tychsen said the officer’s actions constitute excessive force.
She said medical records show police fractured Norman-Taquee’s right wrist, “likely from the zip ties” being on for more than two hours. The lawyer said Norman-Taquee requested medical attention, but police ignored her.
Tychsen also said Norman-Taquee told her that Witrado and a female police officer removed her shirt at police headquarters in front of other male officers. But Witrado’s report says Norman-Taquee “screamed at me to take off her shirt.”
Tychsen said much of Norman-Taquee’s account could have been corroborated by a witness, who was not identified in Witrado’s report.
Norman-Taquee spent seven days in jail before Judge Don Penner allowed her to be free on honor release.
On Tuesday, Penner noted that Norman-Taquee had no prior criminal record. He then sentenced her to two years of informal probation and 13 days in a work program, and ordered her to complete a 12-week anger management program.
“Good luck,” the judge said to her in a parting wish.