2021 | Courts

Montgomery County settles civil suit with man who was kneed in the back of the head by a police officer

Settlement was for $400,000

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Montgomery County has settled a lawsuit with a man who was kneed in the back of the head two years ago by a county police officer during an arrest.

Officer Kevin Moris was seen on video kneeing Arnaldo Pesoa, now 21, outside an Aspen Hill McDonald’s in July 2019. Police said they were arresting Pesoa for selling psilocybin mushrooms – a type of drug that can cause hallucinations. As Moris tried to handcuff Pesoa on the ground, the officer struck Pesoa using his knee.

The Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office charged Moris with second-degree assault and misconduct in office following the confrontation. A jury convicted him of the assault charge following a trial in December 2019, but acquitted him of the misconduct charge.

Moris was sentenced to two years’ probation in August 2020, but Circuit Court Judge Nelson Rupp granted Moris probation before judgement in March, vacating the conviction.

Pesoa filed a civil suit in June 2020, arguing that the full force of Moris’s knee landing on his head and neck could have caused life-threatening injuries. Pesoa suffered a concussion, “extensive lacerations” and severe bleeding, documents state.

The lawsuit alleged force, unconstitutional policy of the authorization of the use of force, battery and assault.

During a hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court Thursday, Associate County Attorney Gessesse Teferi told Judge James Bonifant that the case had been settled. He did not elaborate on the terms of the settlement.

The settlement was for $400,000, which is the maximum among possible for state civil rights claims under the Local Government Tort Claims Act, Pesoa’s attorney Timothy Maloney wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat on Thursday.

Pesoa hopes the outcomes will lead to “real reform” in the policing, Maloney wrote.

“No Montgomery County police officer should ever slam their knee into anyone’s neck.  The fact that the officer’s conduct was captured on videotape helped lead to some measure of accountability here,” he wrote.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com