Texas has been the scene of intense protests and debates over a senator’s filibuster to block an abortion bill. As reporters were threatened with arrest and other controversies mounted, this scene unfolded in the gallery. According to reports, a 74-year-old woman was arrested for assaulting an officer after the Lt. Governor ordered the gallery to be closed. Troopers then encountered Martha Northington who did not move fast enough out of her chair.
In the arrest affidavit, officers reportedly said that Northington resisted by grabbing her seat. However, Northington appears to reach down to pick up her purse. The officer then grabs her roughly and yanks her out of her seat. She protests that the trooper is hurting her and appears to tap or hit the trooper with her purse. She is immediately arrested.
The officer is quoted as writing:
“She attempted to resist by grabbing the chair, not standing, and pulling back from me. We broke her hold of the chair and got her up and as I escorted her up the gallery steps Trooper Hall released her. I was escorting her by the arm up the steps by myself and she continued to try and pull away from me. At the top of the stairs, she spun and slapped my face with her open hand and told me to let her go. The intentional slap to the face by Northington was offensive and I was currently wearing a State Trooper uniform…At this point i spun her around and proceeded to handcuff her for the assault. While trying to handcuff her she continued to resist by pulling her arms and attempted to twist away from me…Ms. Northington was transported to Travis County SO without further incident…
This offense was committed against the peace and dignity of The State of Texas.”
The video does not show any serious striking of the officer, though she appears to lightly hit him with her purse not her hand. She was reportedly charged with Assault on a Public Servant, a third degree felony. A felony. That overcharging was reduced by the arraigning magistrate to Resisting Arrest and Assault by Contact, Class A and Class C misdemeanors.
I fail to see the necessity for any criminal charge. The officer was quite aggressive given the age of the individual and her response, while wrong and ill-advised, appears almost reflex response to what she said was painful handling. It seems that it was the officers who unnecessarily escalated the confrontation. Even if the officers felt that she had to be be forcibly removed, the criminal charge seems quite gratuitous and the account of the officer of a slap does not appear to match the video.
What do you think?