The former La Mesa police officer who was involved in the controversial arrest of a young, Black man pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to a charge of falsifying a police report.
Ex-La Mesa Police Department Officer Matt Dages's attorney Kasey Castillo appeared in court via video on behalf of her client, who denied all allegations against him.
Dages was seen in footage arresting Amaurie Johnson near a Grossmont trolley station last year after he accused him of smoking in public. The on-camera confrontation showed Dages pushing Johnson to sit before his arrest.
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Earlier this year, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office filed a criminal charge against Dages for allegedly falsifying the reason Johnson was arrested. Johnson said at the time of his arrest, officers did not find any evidence of drug paraphernalia during a search but he was still taken into custody anyway.
The defendant faces up to three years in prison if convicted.
During his arraignment Tuesday, Dages was ordered to have no contact with witnesses in the case. The judge granted Castillo's request to not make it a protective order since the defendant has not had contact with any witnesses.
On Tuesday, Johnson's attorney Troy Owens said his client requested a criminal protective order in the case since he has increasingly been contacted by law enforcement since May of 2020. That request was ultimately denied.
With video of Johnson’s arrest circulating social media last year, protests were held in La Mesa calling for justice. He was initially released on a misdemeanor citation but the La Mesa Police Department later announced it would not seek charges against him.
Johnson filed a federal lawsuit against the city and Dages alleging excessive force, negligence and violence due to his race.
Dages was fired from his position in the department on allegations that he allegedly falsified records, according to a termination letter by then-police chief Walt Vazquez. Last month, the defendant filed an appeal request to get his job back.
A readiness hearing for Dages is scheduled for March 23 while a preliminary hearing will be held April 19.