Man found guilty of resisting police officer in viral video case
By Trevor Normile
The Duplin Times
Saturday, November 10, 2018
WARSAW — One arrest, a mountain of video evidence, months of inquiry and a day of witness testimony culminated in one man being sentenced to probation and another being cleared to return to work.
Anthony Wall, who was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct following a disturbance at the Warsaw Waffle House on May 4, was found guilty of resisting a police officer on Thursday afternoon by District Court Judge Mario Perez.
Wall was acquitted of one charge of disturbing the peace, due to an error in the statute under which he was charged.
In a separate inquiry, the state found Sgt. Frank Moss of the Warsaw Police Department, who arrested Wall that evening, neither used excessive force, nor was motivated by racial or sexual prejudice. Those findings were released by District Attorney Ernie Lee after the trial.
The trial included statements from employees who were working on the night of the incident, as well as patrons and one expert witness. Moss and his partner, Officer William Holland, testified, as did Wall.
Videos captured at the scene went viral on social media, garnering millions of views. Other videos, viewed in court, showed Wall attempting to fight with restaurant employees. According to witnesses, a disagreement began after Wall's group was told they would have to wait for a table in the busy restaurant.
In one of the most-shared videos of the encounter, Wall is seen spinning to face Moss as the officer tries to arrest him. Moss then grabs Wall about the neck to gain control of him and pull him to the ground. The move was criticized by some in the public as excessive force.
In response, the state brought in expert witness Richard White Jr., an instructor developer with the N.C. Justice Academy, who helps set training standards for police officers in the state. White concluded that "much less than a reasonable amount of force was used in this case," noting that officers are trained to respond with a closed-fist punch to the face, in order to gain control over combative suspects.
Moss had claimed he was trying to press his thumb under Wall's jaw to use a pressure point commonly taught in self-defense, which White said he believed was less forceful than a punch.
Defense attorney Mark Simeon disputed that point. He also argued, successfully, that the statute used by the officer for disturbing the peace applied to government buildings, not public businesses.
Wall expressed regret in the court for his actions in the restaurant, saying "I could have expressed myself better that day; wrong is wrong and right is right," but did not budge on the allegation that he had not committed any crime or that he had been untruthful in his account of his treatment at the hands of police officers.
In past interviews, Wall claimed the officer drove dangerously during the ride to the magistrate's office following the arrest. He also claimed he was denied medical treatment and that Moss had let his police dog into the passenger area to scare him.
Wall also said he never heard Moss identify himself, and also claimed that he never used a racial slur against the officer, as witnesses had stated.
In closing, Simeon argued that a citizen has a right to resist an unlawful arrest, claiming that "by the time (Wall) was aware this was a law enforcement officer, yes, he resisted, he was afraid." The attorney added that he did not believe Moss should be prosecuted and hoped Wall would be given "the benefit of the doubt."
Perez acquitted Wall of the disorderly conduct charge, but found him guilty of the second charge of resisting an officer.
"Mr. Wall, you kind of admitted it, things got out of hand," Perez said."I understand you felt you were mistreated, but there came a time when you had every opportunity to talk to the officer in a nice, civil way, and I didn't hear that."
"I daresay if you had behaved differently that night, this could have been avoided,” he said.
Wall was sentenced to 18 months of probation, with a 20-day suspended jail sentence. No fine was imposed. He also will have to complete 48 hours of community service and undergo an anger management assessment. During his probation, Wall must stay off the Waffle House premises.The judge also asked that Wall personally apologize to the officer.
Moss, who received death threats after the arrest, was asked if he felt the case had vindicated him. He said he thought it did.
"I'm looking forward to getting back to work,” Moss said. “I used the least amount of force necessary to effect the arrest, and I just can't wait to get back to serving and protecting the town of Warsaw."
Lee discussed the effect social media had on the case. He said that the connection between users and readily-available recording devices has had a powerful effect on criminal justice.
"I've seen so many cases where Facebook or social media gets involved, where they don't always put out the entire story,” Lee said. “I've spent the last several months trying to get the whole story, which means the actions of the defendant before, during and after the incident," Lee said.
After the trial, Eric Southerland, Warsaw police chief, said he was relieved the case was over.
"I'm glad it's behind us, it's unfortunate things had to happen the way they did,” he said. “People are quick about popping their cellphones out and recording the officers or department involved, and judging them off of an eight-second clip.
"The people in our community have been very supportive, we're appreciative of them,” Southerland said. “We know it's those people who are not from this area, who don't know the department or community, who took that eight-second clip and judged it, didn't know who we are, or what we're about."