Former Gwinnett County police officer to testify in his aggravated assault trial

Former Gwinnett County police officer Robert McDonald indicated he will take the stand in his aggravated assault and battery case when the trial resumes Tuesday morning. Defense attorney Walt Brit said McDonald made the decision after hearing all of the evidence against him over the last week of testimony.

Before resting their case Friday afternoon, Gwinnett County prosecutors used their last two witnesses trying to drive home the point about when use of force tactics are necessary and how officers must quickly access when and how much force to use force.

"We have to evaluate each level of threat that a suspect is making. We don't determine what kind of force were going to use. The suspect does that. Whatever a suspect does is what we have to react to you. We're not going to show up to a call and just go punch a suspect. But if they come at me with force, then I have to go up a level of force," said Sgt. Kevin Berardinelli, who trained McDonald in the police academy.

"If a person is giving no active resistance and is being compliant, does that person require a gun to the head?" Assistant District Attorney Charissa Henrich asked Sgt. Timothy Corradino, to which he answered, "No." "Is a gun to the head, is that the default mode? Is that what we do?" she asked.


Former Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni testify against Robert McDonald.

Sgt. Corradino said the answer was no but also, but also explained a person can still pose a threat even when they are in handcuffs.

McDonald is charged with aggravated assault and battery in the April 12, 2017 arrest of Demetrius Hollins. Prosecutors said Hollins was unarmed and had already had a Taser used on him several times by then-Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni when McDonald performed what Bongiovanni called a "down strike" on Hollins.

Prosecutors called it a kick to the head and told the jury pointing a gun to the 21-year-old's head was excessive. On cross-examination, the defense got one led one prosecution witness to explain why he expressed support for the defendant on Instagram immediately after both officers were fired and arrested.

"I just thought he was a good guy and people started talking crap about him and Bongi and I squashed it. Just because somebody made a mistake or has done something in the limelight, doesn't mean your bad person," Sgt. Berardinelli said as he faced the jury.

McDonald will take the stand Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Gwinnett County Justice Center. He faces up to 26 years in prison if he is convicted on all of the charges in the indictment.