PITTSBURGH — A woman who was punched in the side as she was arrested at Pittsburgh's gay pride parade pleaded guilty Wednesday to harassment citations after prosecutors dropped more serious charges that she assaulted the officer and a protester.
Ariel Lawther, 19, of Harmony, was fined $300 and sentenced to time served — the several hours she spent locked up after her June 15 arrest — in a negotiated plea that ends the criminal case against her, defense attorney Komron Maknoon said.
Lawther's arrest made headlines when a 10-second video posted by a friend on Facebook showed the officer pulling Lawther's hair and punching her in the side as he tried to subdue her. City officials have since determined the officer didn't use excessive force in controlling Lawther, but her civil rights attorney, Steve Barth, said she may still file a lawsuit.
Barth wants to subpoena video police have of the incident before making that decision. The video comes from surveillance cameras at a bank and another business nearby, and from a private photographer who chronicled the event, Barth said.
"I'm doing my investigating before I file a lawsuit," Barth said. "I want to see the video. There's supposed to be a video that shows everything. It could nip everything in the bud."
Lawther had been scheduled for a preliminary hearing Wednesday on charges of aggravated assault for allegedly fighting with Officer Souroth Chatterji and kicking him in the groin as he tried to handcuff her. She was also charged with simple assault because the officer said she pushed and cursed at a preacher who was protesting.
But those charges, along with lesser charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, were dropped by prosecutors in exchange for pleas to two harassment citations, which are much like traffic tickets.
"This was an appropriate resolution in light of the evidence and all parties involved were in agreement," Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. said in a statement. The prosecutor noted he agreed the officer "acted reasonably and within his duties as a police officer in taking action to diffuse a confrontation."
Maknoon called the plea deal "a very significant reduction."
"Which is the difference between (going to) jail and a few hundred dollars," he said.
Lawther last month pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was fined $300 to resolve charges stemming from an unrelated incident involving her mother in neighboring Butler County.
Police say the women fought last November with Lawther blackening the eye of her mother, who was fined $100 after also pleading guilty to disorderly conduct. Simple assault charges were dropped against both women.
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