Metro

Charges are dropped against man who bumped into officer

All charges have been dismissed against a 20-year-0ld Dorchester man whose tense encounter with a plainclothes Cambridge police officer in Porter Square was captured on video.

Cleon Hodge was set to be arraigned on a single charge of disorderly conduct Monday, but prosecutors agreed to dismiss the case if Hodge paid $200 in court costs, Hodge’s lawyer said.

A spokeswoman for the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office confirmed that the case had been dismissed. Earlier in January, a clerk magistrate had declined to issue an assault and battery charge that had also been sought by Cambridge Police.

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“The last three months have not been the easiest,” said Hodge, who is known by his middle name, Ali. “I feel way better knowing that it got taken care of appropriately.” He said he planned to file a complaint against the officer.

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Hodge was walking from the Cambridge call center where he works to the Porter Square MBTA station on the evening of Oct. 13 when he and Cambridge Police Sergeant Thomas Ahern bumped into one another.

Each man believed the other had initiated the contact, they said — Hodge in an interview and Ahern in a police report. Hodge said he’d been texting, glancing down at his phone, only to feel Ahern shoulder him; Ahern, on duty but not in uniform, alleged Hodge made eye contact before they collided instead of avoiding him.

Both men agreed that Hodge turned and demanded an apology from Ahern. But Ahern, in the police report, alleged that Hodge’s “hands were clenched into fists ... which I interpreted as a pre-assault cue.”

Cleon Hodge was charged after an encounter with a Cambridge police officer in Porter Square in October.
Barry Chin/Globe Staff
Cleon Hodge was charged after an encounter with a Cambridge police officer in Porter Square in October.

Somewhere around that time, a bystander began recording video of the incident on her phone.

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In a series of four video clips given to the Globe, Ahern grips Hodge by the sweatshirt and lunges with his free hand for Hodge’s waist. Initially, Hodge can be seen keeping his hands above his head, holding his cell phone and calmly asking Ahern to let him go.

A crowd gathers, with many audibly criticizing Ahern’s continued detention of Hodge and accusing Ahern — who said in the police report that he later passed a breathalyzer test and had not been drinking — of being intoxicated. Backed into a Massachusetts Avenue vestibule, Ahern continued to clutch Hodge’s sweatshirt until several more officers arrived.

Charges were also sought against two women who sought to intervene on Hodge’s behalf during the incident, but none were issued. Lawyers for the two women said they had reached agreements with Cambridge police to resolve the matter.

Hodge’s mother, Jeanette Reynoso, said that the outcome was satisfactory, but wished the matter had been resolved much sooner.

“No one would have wanted to go through it,” she said. “It’s been very depleting. It provoked a lot of anxiety. It disrupted my sleep.”

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She said she was grateful for support from Mass Action Against Police Brutality, whose members protested at Hodge’s court hearings this month. She said B.J. Trach, a partner at the Boston law firm Latham & Watkins had taken her son’s case pro bono.

Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, said that once he heard about the case and reviewed the videos, he became convninced that it was a “textbook example of police overreach,” and helped to connect Hodge with free legal counsel.

“What happened to this young African-American man in the streets of Cambridge is deeply, deeply problematic,” Espinoza-Madrigal said.

Without the video recordings that emerged and the media attention the videos generated, he said, Hodge may have ended up with a conviction that could have made it difficult to find a job or get a loan.

“This is how we end up with a disproportionate number of black and Latino youth in the system,” Espinoza-Madrigal said.

A Cambridge Police spokesman did not immediately respond to questions Tuesday afternoon.

Nestor Ramos can be reached at nestor.ramos@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NestorARamos.