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Wednesday, July 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Conviction Upheld For Spitting Blood on Guard

CHICAGO (CN) - A prisoner awarded $10,000 after he was beaten by prison guards seven years ago was properly convicted of aggravated assault for spitting blood on another officer, an Illinois appeals court ruled.

In 2007, prisoner Daniel Pena was involved in an argument with Officer Williams, during which Williams punched Pena twice in the face, and Officer Davis kicked him in the head, knocking him unconscious.

When Pena regained consciousness, he began choking on his blood and teeth, and spit three teeth out of his mouth.

Pena later received a $10,000 settlement from these two officers on his excessive force claims.

Officer Alan Lee responded to an "all available" call to assist in moving Pena to a holding cell. He later testified that he could see Pena was angry and bleeding from the mouth.

The officers carried Pena into the cell, and placed him on the bench of the back of the cell.

As the officers left the cell, Pena rose from the bench, and from 7 feet away, spit blood in the direction of the cell door, which Officer Lee was locking.

The bloody spit landed on Lee's forearm, and Lee told him he was going to kill his "bitch ass." Lee claims this threat was directed at Williams, and that he only spit into the toilet.

A videotape of the incident does not show Pena spitting in Lee's direction, but Lee states, "Oh man, he just spit on me."

Lee testified that he was upset, and had to take an AIDS test.

An Illinois appeals court last week upheld Pena's conviction for aggravated battery of a peace officer for spitting on Lee, and his six-year sentence.

"Contrary to Pena's claims that the video disputes Lee's testimony and that the spit could have accidentally landed on the officer's arm, we find the trial court could reasonably infer from the sound of Pena spitting, immediately followed by the officer's spontaneous remark, that Pena spit on him intentionally, and not accidentally," Justice Michael Hyman said. "This conclusion finds support in the evidence of Pena's combative conduct toward the officers, and his threat to kill the officer's 'bitch ass.'"

Pena was in prison at the time of the incident on a conviction for child abduction. He has since been released from prison.

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