Prosecutors seeking felony charges against former Gwinnett officers in brutality case

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Prosecutors are now seeking felony charges against two Gwinnett County police officers caught on tape apparently attacking a suspect.

Channel 2's Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Tony Thomas obtained the proposed indictment against the fired officers.


Last April, video surfaced of Gwinnett Police Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni appearing to punch a man. Later in the video, officer Robert McDonald is seen kicking the handcuffed man.

Authorities fired the officers and charged them with battery against Demetrius Hollins.

Now, as Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter prepares to seek indictments, he's upping the ante, asking for charges against both officers as party to the crime of aggravated assault.

Porter told Thomas the charges stem from the video where Hollins said McDonald put his gun to the back of his head.

Felony charges of false writings are also included. Porter said that's because although Bongiovanni claimed he was aggressive because of past dealings with Hollins, investigators believe Bongiovanni put that in his report to cover his tracks.

"I don't think he knew who this individual was when they were out on the street but he refreshed his memory from a previous report and then wrote a report to indicate he was in a heightened sense of danger," Porter said.

Hollins' lawyer sent Thomas the following statement:

We are relieved to hear that the District Attorney's Office is taking the necessary steps to address the criminal aspect of the behavior exhibited by these officers. However, our independent investigation has uncovered much deeper systemic deficiencies within the Gwinnett County Police Department. These officers' actions have had a debilitating effect on our client and we are grateful to those members of the Gwinnett County Community, who chose not to look the other way, but instead chose to document this incident. Now that the District Attorney, with the help of the public, has had an opportunity to evaluate the seriousness of this incident, we hope that the Police Department and the County take the necessary next steps to do justice here. Ultimately, our genuine hope is that the Police Department and County, do the right thing in taking responsibility for the actions of these officers and that they move swiftly towards resolving this matter fairly and justly with our client.

But former officer turned lawyer Mike Puglise, who represents Bongiovanni, calls the added charges a slippery slope.

"Whenever we tie our officers hands behind their back and we literally are making them second guess every step they take, we are putting a lot of lives in jeopardy. A lot of blue lives in jeopardy," Puglise said.

McDonald's lawyer told Thomas by phone he is ready to confront the charges in court.