Richmond Officers Appear in Court to Face Charges

Police secure an intersection in Richmond, Va. Protests continue across the country over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

By Brian Carlton

October 9, 2020

Both men released on their own recognizance after making their first appearance.

RICHMOND-After their first appearance in court, a Richmond judge released two city police officers Wednesday on their own recognizance. That means 34-year-old Mark Janowski and 28-year-old Christopher Brown didn’t have to pay bail or post bond. They just agreed to appear for the rest of the trial. 

Both men face one misdemeanor count of assault and battery in connection with their actions during the May 31 protests. The maximum penalty in a case like this in Virginia is one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Richmond Commonwealth Attorney Colette McEachin said in a statement her office handed over 18 indictments to the grand jury on Monday. Those 18 indictments involved “the actions of eight Richmond Police Department officers during the protests that occurred earlier this summer,” McEachin said. 

Out of those 18 indictments, 16 came back from the grand jury as “not a true bill.” That means the grand jury didn’t find enough evidence to charge the defendant. Six of the eight officers were not charged as a result. If a grand jury finds enough probable cause exists for a trial, they return the indictment as a “true bill.” That happened with Janowski and Brown. 

The protests started in May after Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer, killed George Floyd, an unarmed Black man. Richmond was one of several cities across the country that saw protests, which we covered here. When protests started, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney set an 8 pm curfew throughout the city. Specifically, the mayor ordered people not to occupy public space within city limits after 8 pm each night. Things turned violent, however, with police clashing with protesters. 

Richmond Officers Appear in Court to Face Charges
This booking photo provided by Richmond Police shows (from left) Richmond Police Officers Christopher Brown and Mark Janowski. (Associated Press)

McEachin, attorneys provide few details

McEachin didn’t identify what led to the charges in documents released Monday or during Wednesday’s court hearing. Richmond Police Chief Gerald Smith also only released a short statement this week, saying both men will be on administrative leave until verdicts are reached in their respective cases. 

One of the attorneys representing Janowski, Peter Baruch, spoke to the Associated Press and said police faced “unimaginable” challenges during the protests. Baruch added multiple officers sustained injuries during the protests. “They were faced with circumstances that were unprecedented,” Baruch said. “The city was literally on fire in many places.”

Janowski has been with the Richmond Police Department since 2014 and Brown since 2015.

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