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February 15, 2023

Pa. superior court drops aggravated assault charges against former Philly cop in 2020 incident

Fired officer Joseph Bologna is still charged with misdemeanors for striking a protester with a baton during a demonstration

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Assault charges dropped for retired Philly Cop Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled in favor of Joseph Bologna's appeal to drop first- and second-degree aggravated assault charges against him for a 2020 incident involving a protester. The court said there was not enough evidence from prosecutors for the charges to stand.

A Pennsylvania appeals court ruled that there was not enough evidence to charge a former Philadelphia cop with first- and second-degree aggravated assault of a protester in 2020.

While the court did not dispute that Joseph Bologna, a former police officer, struck Temple student and protester Evan Gorski on his neck when he tried to get in the way of an arrest, it said prosecutors did not have enough viable proof for the stiffer charges to stand. Bologna will, however, still be charged with simple assault and possession of an instrument of crime, both misdemeanor offenses.

"The video depicts (Bologna) making a single strike with his baton to thwart a protestor's attempt to interfere with an arrest, not cause him to suffer serious bodily injury," the court ruled

A video of a June 2020 incident, which occurred near Benjamin Franklin Parkway, went viral. Bologna struck Gorski during a demonstration against racism following the nationwide uprising after former police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.

Gorski reportedly suffered injuries that required 10 staples to the head and stitches.

"We are trying to be fair," Krasner said in a statement at the time of the incident. "Accountability has to be equal. This moment demands a swift and evenhanded response to violent and criminal acts based on the facts and evidence."

In January 2021, Municipal Court Judge Henry Lewandowski III dismissed misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment, simple assault and possession of an instrument of crime filed by Krasner's office, saying there was not enough evidence to prove that Bologna's use of force was a crime.

Krasner refiled the charges against the former officer a month later, calling it his "oath to seek justice." 

John McNesby, the president of the Fraternal Order of the Police Lodge No. 5, said that Krasner's attempt to continue charging Bologna was a political stunt from a politician facing reelection in 2021. 

"This is not unexpected from a District Attorney, who craves media attention and is facing a primary challenge from inside his own party," McNesby said in a statement. "DA Krasner is clearly running away from his failed record over the past three years, and this latest decision to re-charge this officer is not based on facts or evidence."

In August 2021, Common Pleas Judge Crystal Bryant-Powell ordered Bologna to be held for trial in municipal court on charges of simple assault and possessing an instrument of crime. The aggravated assault charges were dismissed. 

"We respectfully disagree with the court's decision to dismiss the felony aggravated assault charge, given the seriousness of the head injury suffered by the victim, which required multiple stitches and staples," Krasner said in response to the court's decision. "Because a just resolution of this matter is of great public interest and importance, we will be reviewing our options for the best course forward as prosecutors on behalf of the Commonwealth."

It is unclear whether Krasner will continue fighting for stiffer charges; his office did not respond to requests for comment. 

Last year Gorski, who studied engineering at Temple, filed a lawsuit against Bologna, alleging that he was hit without provocation. 

"The fact that such extreme misconduct was allowed to happen in the middle of a peaceful protest against police brutality is telling," Jonathan Feinberg, Gorski's lawyer, said in a statement to Temple News