Deputies charged in horse chase beating plead not guilty

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- Three San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies charged with felony assault by a public officer pleaded not guilty Tuesday to beating a suspect following a three-hour pursuit.

A KNBC helicopter captured images of the three deputies repeatedly kicking Francis Pusok. Last week, the district attorney charged the officers and said the video shows Deputy Nicholas Downey kicking Pusok in the head when he was face down with his hands behind his back.

The district attorney also said Deputy Michael Phelps kicked Pusok in the groin, and minutes later Deputy Charles Foster kicked Pusok after he was handcuffed.

But the deputies' attorneys said the video does not tell the whole story.

"What we see in the video is a group of deputies trying to get this person to comply with them so they can control and secure him from a helicopter that's way up in the air that has a very flat, two-dimensional view of a very three- or four-dimensional event," attorney Michael Schwartz said.

The arraignment hearing drew both supporters and protesters. Supporters said the deputies were doing their job protecting the community. But protesters disagreed. One man, Cody Williams, said he suffered a similar beating at the hands of Downey.

"We want officers like Downey to stop disgracing the badge. We want him to be off the force," he said.

The deputies' attorneys said their clients' actions were justifiable. Attorney Steve Sanchez said the deputies have to act as if the suspect could cause them harm and act accordingly.

If the deputies are convicted, they face up to three years in prison. They are due back in court on Oct. 22.
Copyright © 2019 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.