Sonoma County prosecutors are seeking a court order to remove two videos posted on the Internet that appear to show a Santa Rosa police officer pummeling a West County artist during an arrest.
Deputy District Attorney Andrew Lukas has requested that lawyers for Thomas Flournoy, 49, who was charged with obstructing officers, be forced to take down the videos posted on YouTube and linked to a story in The Press Democrat.
One of the videos of the September confrontation shows Flournoy face down on the street with Officer Christopher Diaz on top of him, repeatedly punching him in the face, back and side. Two other officers are holding Flournoy down.
In court papers, Lukas said the videos depict only a limited view of what happened in the Railroad Square incident and could influence potential jurors in an expected misdemeanor trial.
Also, Lukas suggested lawyers Omar Figueroa and Heather Burke acted inappropriately in posting one of the videos, which is set to music, calls for witnesses and features Figueroa's contact information.
"The facts of this case .<TH>.<TH>. should be decided in the courtroom, not based on a partial, manipulated portrayal of events," Lukas said in his 12-page motion seeking a court order to remove the video from the Internet.
Figueroa and Burke, the lawyer for co-defendant Kevin Goecke, 38 of Sebastopol, declined to discuss the prosecutor's allegations against them.
But Figueroa has hired famed San Francisco defense lawyer Tony Serra, who vowed a "vigorous defense against the proposed gag order."
Serra is expected to argue at a March 15 hearing before Judge Patrick Broderick.
Serra denied Figueroa posted the videos but said through an assistant Thursday that they are a legitimate exercise of state bar-sanctioned conduct to locate witnesses.
Further, he said the videos are protected under the First Amendment. He accused prosecutors of trying to block Flournoy's due process rights "by chilling defense advocacy."
But Lukas argued in his court papers that the video, with its slow-motion replay and dubbed music, will interfere with his ability to prosecute the case.
Pretrial publicity already has caused a juror in an unrelated case to express an opinion that the officer in Flournoy's arrest used excessive force, Lukas said.
"The music, the pace of the video, the limited aspect of the encounter shown and the description of the actions as police brutality serve to frame the incident from an obvious defense perspective," Lukas said.
The videos sprang from a Sept. 25 incident near Fifth and Wilson streets.
Police were called at 9:23 p.m. to the Last Day Saloon to a report of an unwanted subject, later identified as Flournoy. Bar employees said he was kicked out after he pushed someone, returned and refused to leave.
Diaz arrived to find him walking west on Fifth Street with two other men — Goecke and Jeffrey White.
The officer stopped Flournoy, asked him to sit on the bumper of his patrol car and began questioning him.
Flournoy did it but then jumped to his feet and faced Diaz when White turned on his cellphone camera.
Diaz grabbed his arm and struggled with Flournoy before putting him on the ground and trying to get handcuffs on him.
About that time, two other officers arrived to detain White and Goecke.