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Trial Begins for Deputies Charged With Assault in 2018 Vista Arrest

A neighbor recorded the arrest of Gerardo Martinez Sr. and Gerardo Martinez Jr. in May 2018, which sparked questions of assault

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Tim Ciesco, NBC 5 News

A viral video capturing the controversial arrest of two men in Vista and a 911 call were played Wednesday for jurors during opening statements in the trial of two deputies accused of assault. 

Deputy Nicholas Morgan and Deputy Joshua Nahan both face misdemeanor assault charges stemming from the arrest on May 7, 2018.

In the 22-second video, two deputies walked a handcuffed Gerardo Martinez Sr. down a walkway. Nahan appears to push Martinez into a wooden fence.

While deputies were walking Martinez Sr., two other deputies were attempting to take his son, Gerardo Martinez Jr., into custody on the ground.

Morgan was seen striking Martinez Jr. in the back of the head as he lay face down on the concrete.

The prosecution said in court Wednesday that the deputies used unreasonable force.

“He didn’t take a fighting stance, but the deputies punched on his way down to the ground, and even when he got on the ground, the deputy still continued to punch him,” the Deputy District Attorney Leonard Trinh said.

"Once a suspect is on the ground with his hands behind his back, they are no longer a threat," the prosecutor said. 

The defense responded by saying that one of the men being detained by the deputies was a convicted felon. 

In introducing the 911 call recording, Michael Begovich, the attorney representing Deputy Morgan, instructed the jurors to pay close attention to the voice of the younger Martinez.

“A theme is going to come up, ‘I’m not going to jail.’ And that mindset of being combative and not following commands is what the first responders walk in to,” Begovich said.

A neighbor captured the arrest on video and posted it to Facebook where it went viral.

Months after the incident, an investigation was launched following outrage in the community.

Morgan has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of assault without lawful necessity by an officer and faces two years behind bars if convicted, the District Attorney's Office said Tuesday.

Nahan has been charged with one misdemeanor count of assault without lawful necessity by an officer and faces one year in jail if convicted. He's being represented by attorney Richard Pinckard. 

Judge Harry M. Elias is presiding over the trial and ordered only still imagesand audio, no video, could be recorded inside court.

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