Former officer in assault trial tells Gwinnett County jury he meant no harm

Closing arguments will begin Wednesday morning in the aggravated assault and battery trial of former Gwinnett County police officer Robert Mcdonald.

Tuesday, McDonald took the stand and told jurors he was not aware Sergeant Michael Bongiovanni had already tased Demetrius Hollins during an April 2017 traffic stop. He said he could not see that Hollins was already in handcuffs on the ground by the time he arrived at the intersection of Lawrenceville Suwannee Road and Sugarloaf Parkway.

"I thought he could roll over, kick, or pull a weapon," McDonald told the jury.

He described the kick that led to his aggravated assault and battery charges as an effort to get Hollins, who was upright, completely on the ground.

"I intended to use my foot to push his shoulder back down. I missed the shoulder and hit his cheek," said McDonald.

McDonald also told the jury Bongiovanni's voice seemed "more heightened than usual" over the radio when Bongiovanni requested backup. 

"It sounded more like 'Oh man, something's going on,'" he told the jury. "He is usually very calm."

When pressed by prosecutors, McDonald said using his OC spray could have been an option, but added he left it in his patrol car. He said using his baton would have been a more potentially harmful option than using his foot to push Hollins down.

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In an exchange with defense attorney Walt Brit, McDonald told the jury meant no harm when he took the actions that led to his dismissal from the Gwinnett County Police Department following the release of cell phone video of the arrest.

"Was it your intent to kick him in the head? No. Was it your intent to cause harm? No. Was it your intent to exact revenge? No," he told jurors.

McDonald faces 26 years in prison if he's convicted of all the aggravated assault, battery, and violation of oath charges in his indictment.

Bongiovanni took a plea deal to avoid prison time and testified against McDonald last week. He's serving 10 years probation following six months on work release and house arrest.