A Texas man is suing Harris County for allegedly being choked because he was smiling for his mug shot.
Christopher Johnson was arrested on July 29, 2015, on the suspicion that he was driving while intoxicated, the lawsuit filed Wednesday states. When he was posing for his mug shot, he was allegedly choked by two Harris County employees while being booked into the county jail because he was smiling for the photo. The lawsuit does not specify who the two employees were or what their jobs were.
"It was a willful violation of his civil rights and civil liberties, he should have the right to smile," Andre Evans, Johnson's attorney, told ABC News today. Evans hopes to "send a message that as attorneys we hear that the rumors about what takes place in the jail and type of treatment that they receive from the jail officers, and we are sending a message that that is not allowed."
He added: "We do hope for some reform in the jail policies and procedures, and more clarity."
While posing for what he says were approximately ten photographs, Johnson claims he was choked by the two Harris County employees for approximately 30 seconds, the lawsuit states. "This is how I always take my pictures," Johnson said to the booking officer, according to the lawsuit.
"While Mr. Johnson was handcuffed, two Harris County employees placed their hand around his neck, depriving him of the ability to breath, emasculating, and humiliating him in front of other Harris County employees and bystanders," the complaint states, saying the incident caused Johnson "physical and emotional abuse."
The Harris County Sheriff's Office responded to the lawsuit in a statement, saying there are no policies or procedures that prohibit "smiling during the booking process."
"It is not uncommon for detention personnel to assist impaired or uncooperative detainees while taking booking photographs," the statement said. "An initial review of the photograph in question appears to be consistent with proper procedures for assisting an impaired detainee in order to obtain a photograph."
The statement concluded: "The Harris County Sheriff’s Office believes that proper procedure was followed during the course of Mr. Johnson’s booking. Should any evidence arise to the contrary, proper administrative actions will be taken.... At this time, evidence suggests that Mr. Johnson’s pleading does not hold merit."
Evans told ABC News that his client was charged the night he was arrested, but "his case is still pending [and] he is pleading not guilty."