Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
A fired Albuquerque police officer accused of shoving a handcuffed suspect into a wall headfirst pleaded no contest to a count of battery Thursday morning.
John Hill was charged with the petty misdemeanor in July, and his termination came weeks later, on Aug. 3. The 41-year-old had been with the Albuquerque Police Department for seven years, and the head of the police union confirmed that the case has been appealed.
Metropolitan Court Judge David Murphy ruled that Hill will be placed on unsupervised probation for six months and is eligible to receive a conditional discharge. He must also pay $50 in restitution to the victim, Jackson Howe, and must perform 40 hours of community service.
“Officers should really do their job by protecting and serving the community, including people who are less fortunate than they are,” Howe wrote in a statement that her attorney read in court Thursday. “They’re there to protect and to serve; they shouldn’t put people in jail unjustifiably and they shouldn’t hurt people.”
Howe said that she was hurt for “no reason at all,” and that she hopes Hill learns from his mistake.
On Feb. 17, Howe had reportedly caused a disturbance at a university-area church and was arrested on disorderly conduct, trespassing and attempted battery charges. Her charges were dismissed by a judge because the state had not provided to the defense some of the 911 calls related to the case, along with corresponding lapel video.
Hill was fired after Internal Affairs launched an investigation into the incident, which was recorded on surveillance video. The video shows Hill and another officer walking Howe into a holding cell. Hill then shoves Howe headfirst into the wall and then pushes her to sit down on a bench. Howe is then seen kicking at the door and shouting obscenities.
Hill’s lawyer, John D’Amato, told the judge that his client had never before been charged with a crime and called the conduct at issue an anomaly.
“For the past seven years – prior to his termination – he did just what Ms. Howe asked him to do,” he said. “He upheld the oath of office, he took his badge with the Albuquerque Police Department seriously.”
The case, he said, was a signal to law enforcement that “we live in a different day and age.”
“I expect to see Mr. Hill back in blue one day,” he said. “And he’s not going to forget this day.”
Both Hill and D’Amato declined to comment after the hearing, and Hill did not address the court.
Before announcing the sentence, Judge Murphy thanked Howe for participating in the hearing and addressing the court.
“This shouldn’t have happened to you, and I’m sorry that it did,” he said.
He also thanked Hill for taking responsibility.
“As an officer, you are held to a higher standard,” he said. “And the court recognizes you taking responsibility for this, and I commend you for that.”