Pedestrian who shoulder-bumped Cambridge cop charged with disorderly conduct, not assault
A Dorchester man whose run-in with a plainclothes Cambridge police officer drew national attention will be charged with disorderly conduct, a clerk magistrate ruled Wednesday.
An assault and battery charge that Cambridge police had sought against Cleon Hodge, 21, was dropped.
The charge stems from an incident in October, when Hodge and Detective Sergeant Thomas Ahern bumped shoulders while Hodge was leaving work.
Hodge, who uses his middle name “Ali” instead of his first name, said he was texting someone as he headed for the Porter Square MBTA Station, and thought Ahern had instigated the bump. Ahern, in a police report, said Hodge had made eye contact and bumped him intentionally — and recommended the assault charge.
Though their initial meeting was not captured on video, the aftermath was. Four cellphone videos, obtained by the Globe, show Ahern gripping Hodge by the sweatshirt for several minutes as a small crowd gathers.
As Hodge, hands in the air, asks repeatedly to be released, the scene becomes increasingly tense.
After Ahern and Hodge back into a Massachusetts Avenue vestibule, a growing chorus of onlookers shout questions at Ahern, while others ask Hodge and the crowd to let Ahern do his job.
Charges were also sought against two women who recorded the videos and intervened on Hodge’s behalf; the clerk declined to issue those charges at separate hearings on Wednesday, and lawyers for both women said their clients apologized directly to Ahern, who was present at the hearing but declined to speak to a reporter outside the courtroom.
A lawyer for the Cambridge Police Department also declined to comment.
The clerk magistrate’s hearing, a preliminary proceeding at which a clerk decides whether enough evidence exists to bring criminal charges, was closed to the public. A request to open the hearing was denied.
Cambridge police had sought to charge one of the women with assault and battery against a police officer; in the video, she appears to make contact with Ahern’s arm as he reaches for Hodge. Jack McGlone, who was representing one of the women, said no charges were issued and called the matter closed.
“Both of them made overtures that they were sorry for the circumstances they were in,” McGlone said.
Hodge and his mother, Jeanette Reynoso, said outside the courtroom that the disorderly conduct charge stemmed from Hodge’s actions while he was in Ahern’s grasp, including pulling away and stepping back from Ahern, counter to his directions. Hodge said that his reactions were instinctual.
“A whole lot can happen when you’re scared,” said Hodge, who works at a call center in Porter Square that raises money for progressive political causes and for Democratic candidates.
“I didn’t feel safe at the time . . . I wasn’t trying to be evasive. I didn’t want to be in a corner. ”
Reynoso said Ahern acknowledged at the hearing that Hodge was largely compliant. In the video, his hands are often up, and his voice is calm. Reynoso said Hodge had been offered the propsect of the charges being dropped if he waived the right to sue the department, but he rebuffed it; a Police Department spokesman said in December that such an offer had not been made.
After the videos were made public, lawyers for civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice in Boston decried the prospect of criminal charges and raised questions about Ahern’s behavior during the arrest.
About a dozen members of Mass Action Against Police Brutality attended the hearing, and waited in the hall.
“This is absurd,” said Tahia Sykes, a member of the group, who passed out fliers calling for action against Ahern, including criminal charges.