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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Student protester files civil rights lawsuit against police, county

Bri Holmes is arrested in front of Mrak Hall during a protest on Nov. 19, 2009. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

By
March 11, 2011 | 9 Comments

A UC Davis student has filed a federal lawsuit claiming her arrest and prosecution on suspicion of battering a campus police officer violated her civil rights.

A Yolo County jury last summer voted 10-2 to acquit Brienna Holmes of the battery charge and split 6-6 on an accompanying count of resisting arrest, resulting in a mistrial.

Sacramento attorney Stewart Katz, who represents the UCD senior, alleges that Holmes’ Nov. 19, 2009, arrest and her subsequent prosecution in Yolo Superior Court were “unjustified.”

Filed Feb. 4 in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, the nine-page lawsuit alleges unreasonable seizure, excessive force, malicious abuse of process and battery. It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are UCD police Capt. Joyce Souza and Lt. Matthew Carmichael, Yolo County Sheriff’s Deputies Ryan Mez and Gary Richter, District Attorney Jeff Reisig and the county of Yolo.

Souza is the officer Holmes was accused of shoving and slapping during a raucous protest outside UCD’s Mrak Hall, where several hundred students had gathered to object to a 32 percent increase in student fees.

Mez and Richter took Holmes into custody following the confrontation with Souza. Authorities alleged that Holmes resisting the officers’ efforts to detain her.

Officials at UCD and the District Attorney’s Office dispute the allegations.

“This lawsuit is meritless,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven said. “In the criminal case, six jurors felt beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Holmes was guilty of a crime.”

Added Michael Sweeney, associate campus counsel at UCD: “The district attorney reviewed the criminal case against Ms. Holmes and determined there was probable cause to conclude that she engaged in criminal activity. …Therefore, based on the information available to us, we believe the officers acted appropriately and certainly have no legal vulnerability.”

Souza testified during the trial last July that Holmes shoved her and slapped at her arms when she instructed Holmes to move out of a pathway that was being used to escort protesters — who had been arrested on trespassing charges — from Mrak Hall to a sheriff’s detention van.

Holmes disputed that account, saying it was Souza who shoved her first, causing her to lose her balance and fall forward. Her struggle with the two sheriff’s deputies who detained her was due to her arm being pinned underneath her body as they placed her on the hood of a patrol car, she testified.

Following the mistrial, the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office declined to retry the case and dismissed the misdemeanor charges.

“Ms. Holmes suffered physical injuries, emotional distress and public humiliation as a result of the actions of defendants Souza, Carmichael, Richter, Mez and County of Yolo,” the lawsuit states.

The suit also alleges that the DA’s prosecution of the case cost Holmes legal fees and further humiliation, while those who were arrested for trespassing were not prosecuted.

— Reach Lauren Keene at lkeene@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8048. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com

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Discussion | 9 comments

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  • DavidMarch 12, 2011 - 6:15 am

    “This lawsuit is meritless,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven said. “In the criminal case, six jurors felt beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Holmes was guilty of a crime.” I don't understand what that has to do with anything - it is quite possible that the individual committed a crime and the police still acted improperly. We watched the case, the evidence of a crime was weak. People sympathize with the police most of the time - the fact that they could not get a conviction is pretty strong evidence here.

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  • YesMarch 12, 2011 - 1:44 pm

    She needs to get her act together and be glad she doesn't have a criminal record. A picture is worth a thousand words.

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  • JusticeforceMarch 13, 2011 - 12:55 am

    If 10 people on a jury were compelled to believe the defendant did not commit battery, how does this justify arrest? Someone please answer this.

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  • JusticeforceMarch 13, 2011 - 12:56 am

    P.S. Ryan Mez's Facebook tells its own story. http://img405.imageshack.us/i/picture13hr.png/

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • JusticeforceMarch 13, 2011 - 1:01 am

    http://img855.imageshack.us/i/picture16h.png/ http://img218.imageshack.us/i/picture15xl.png/ If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a facebook status worth?

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  • DavidMarch 13, 2011 - 5:00 am

    Unless you watch the entire video, and sat through the trial, you are not in the position to judge.

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  • DavidMarch 13, 2011 - 5:01 am

    That was to "yes"

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Yes DavidMarch 13, 2011 - 9:44 am

    We all know you have nothing better to do and no real job that enables you to sit through trial all day and offer your uninformed two cents.

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  • DavidMarch 13, 2011 - 10:20 am

    You can attack me personally all you want, but that doesn't validate your point. Under the penal code that she was charged, she has the right to resist an unlawful detention, and she can only be convicted of resisting arrest if the arrest was lawful. Officer Souza instigated the situation. She walked up to Ms. Holmes and shoved her, and she fell back. The other officers did not see the start of the confrontation and they misjudged what was occurring. You cannot tell this from the captured image at the top of article. You can insult me all you want, but that is why 10 jurors acquitted Ms. Holmes of the first charge and six of the resisting arrest charge.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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