Trial begins for LAPD officer accused of assault after in-custody death

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Prosecutors opened their case Wednesday in the trial of a Los Angeles Police Department officer accused of assaulting a restrained woman, who later died, with video showing the officer striking the woman in the throat and kicking her in the stomach and groin area.

Prosecutors opened their case in the trial of a Los Angeles Police Department officer accused of assaulting a restrained woman, who later died, with video allegedly showing the officer striking the woman in the throat and kicking her in the stomach and groin area.

"I can't move. I can't breathe," Alesia Thomas is heard saying in the videotaped footage, which was displayed for jurors Wednesday.

There's no dispute that Thomas had been resisting officers, but the footage from inside the LAPD patrol car shows what prosecutors say is graphic evidence of excessive force.

Thomas was allegedly kicked three times in the groin. She had been complaining that her chest and legs were hurting and that she needed an ambulance, but LAPD Officer Mary O'Callaghan allegedly thought she was "faking her distress," prosecutors said. Thomas lost consciousness in the car and never recovered.

"The defendant didn't believe her. The evidence will show the defendant kicked first and asked questions later," the prosecutor said in his opening statement.

O'Callaghan, a 19-year LAPD veteran, is not facing charges in connection to the 35-year-old woman's death. An autopsy found Thomas likely died from cocaine intoxication.

She is, however, charged with a felony count of assault by a public officer involving her interaction with Thomas in the 9100 block of South Broadway Avenue on July 12, 2012.

O'Callaghan's attorney, Robert Rico, says Thomas, who stood at about 6'1, weighed 228 pounds and was under the influence, kept bucking in the backseat as O'Callaghan was trying to adjust the hobble that bound her legs. The officer says she had no intent to harm Thomas.

In one clip, O'Callaghan seems to respond calmly when Thomas says "if you want to kill me, just kill me."

"I don't want to kill you, I just want to transport you," O'Callaghan responds.

Both sides say that what led to Thomas' arrest was tragic.

The overwhelmed mom had abandoned her two children in the lobby of the LAPD's Southeast Station.

Two responding male police officers set out to arrest Thomas for being under the influence of some type of controlled substance and for abandoning her children. She allegedly became combative with the officers, who then had difficulty handcuffing her and getting her in the backseat, Rico said. That's when O'Callaghan and a trainee were called to help the officers. O'Callaghan says she was trying to adjust the hobble and properly secure the suspect in the back of the patrol car during the struggle.

That's no excuse, according to Assistant Head Deputy District Attorney Shannon Presby said.

"She shoved and kicked Ms. Thomas. The evidence will show, not because it was necessary, but out of that frustration," Presby said.

The LAPD says all allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated.

"In this case, the LAPD's investigation led directly to the charges being presented in a court of law and we await the justice system's determination based on the evidence in the case," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement.

If convicted as charged, O'Callaghan could face up to three years in state prison.

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