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by Jordan Green

dirt. politics, updates, trends and other vital information. Latin Kings leader acquitted of assaulting police officer

A Guilford County district court judge acquitted Jorge Cornell of assaulting a police officer on Monday. The Almighty Latin King & Queen Nation leader pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, and Judge Pete Hunter found him guilty of resisting and obstructing arrest. The charges were consolidated for a suspended sentence, and Cornell was ordered to pay $121 in court costs. The three charges had been hanging over Cornell for exactly a year, and had clouded his reputation when he later made a public call for peace among Greensboro gangs, or “nations” as the Latin Kings prefer to call them. While Cornell readily admitted to cursing the police after an officer pulled up behind two carloads of Latin Kings as they stopped to pick up a young woman for a party on Dec. 1, he denied allegations that he resisted arrest and struck a police officer. Testimony over two hours on Monday afternoon pitted the credibility of testimony from police officers against that of Cornell and a fellow Latin King member. “I do appreciate the system,” said Cornell, who had faced 260 days in jail, following the trial. “Hopefully this judgment will put [the gang enforcement unit] back, and cause them to stop the harassment. Because they’re the ones who look like fools. We’ll just continue this chess game.” Members of the gang enforcement unit and other police officers, who conferred in a hallway after the verdicts were rendered, gave no comment. “These individuals were stopped for no other reason than the police wanted to talk to them,” said Cornell’s lawyer, Georgia Nixon, in her closing argument. “How did they try to talk to them? They put on the blue light. They approached them with guns drawn, and they started shouting commands. There’s longstanding law that you don’t have to talk to the police if you don’t want to. You heard testimony that Mr. Cornell escalated the situation by cursing the police. I think the Greensboro Police Department escalated the situation. They got a call. I think the only credible evidence is a future fight. There was no credible criminal activity afoot.” Patrol Officer Douglas Strader testified that he pulled the two carloads of Latin Kings over for an investigative stop, but acknowledged that he did not put on his blue light until the cars had already stopped at the residence of the young woman, who the group planned to take back to a party at Cornell’s place. Strader said that based on the fact that each car was filled with six occupants who known gang members, he called for backup, and detained them in the two vehicles at gunpoint. “Jorge came out of the front passenger seat and I had to break cover to get him back into the car,” Strader said. “All the while he was cursing and using profanity. Because I had my gun drawn, he said, ‘You can’t shoot me, you can’t shoot me.’” Cornell testified, “Once we pulled up to Monique’s house I got out of the car, and started walking towards Monique. They told her to go back inside, and she went back inside. They told me to get back in the car, and I got back in the car.” Cornell said that later Officer Robert Finch, who appeared on the scene to assist Strader, walked up to his window and pointed his gun at the Latin King leader. “Me and my friends, we go through this all the time,” Cornell said. “They’re harassing us. It gets aggravating.” Cornell admitted to cursing the police while being detained in the car, but said he complied with orders to place his hands on the dashboard. Cornell and his brother and fellow Latin King, Russell Kilfoil, said they were not told why they were being detained before Cornell was placed under arrest for disorderly conduct. Finch testified that when he arrived on the scene he found a baseball bat and what appeared to be a knife wrapped in duct tape in the back of the station wagon of which Cornell was a passenger and Kilfoil was the driver. Cornell later testified that he keeps the baseball equipment in the car for games in the park. Finch testified that Cornell cursed the police and told them: “You cops ain’t shit. You can’t shoot me.” The police officer said the other Latin King members were ordered to keep their hands on the ceiling because the sky was dark, the street was poorly lit and the police had trouble seeing what the occupants were doing. He acknowledged that several officers were shouting, and that Cornell kept his hands on the dashboard, which was considered in compliance with police orders. But Finch alleged that Cornell raised his voice and at one time told the other occupants, “We should get out of this car right now,” with the result that some of his friends began to lower their hands, and the police feared they might lose control of the situation. Finch acknowledged that Cornell complied when asked to step out of the car, but said he refused to lie down on the lawn on his stomach to be arrested. Finch said he grabbed the Latin King leader by his right hand, pulled it behind his back and “escorted Mr. Cornell to the ground” by pushing down on his shoulder, following proper department procedures. Cornell testified, in contradiction to the police, that he willingly lay on the ground. Finch said he was able to handcuff Cornell’s right hand, but he “flailed about” with his free left arm, and managed to roll onto his side and throw a punch with a closed fist from his left arm that struck Finch’s shoulder and grazed his neck,

before the patrol officer stopped it from landing on his face and handcuffed Cornell’s left hand. The police officer said he required no medical attention from the alleged altercation. After the time when Cornell was on the ground, the two sides’ accounts wildly diverge. “He threw his knee into my back, put my left arm behind my back,” Cornell said. “He tried to slam my face into the ground. I stiffened my neck. I turned to my side and tried to put up my hands in defense.” Cornell maintains he did not strike Finch, or even attempt to hit him. “Several officers were punching me and kicking me,” he said. The defense submitted as evidence a photo of Cornell with bruises on his head that was taken after the defendant was released on bond; the state submitted a booking photo that Finch testified showed no markings or other evidence of an assault. Cornell also testified that Officer AJ

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Jorge Cornell (left), inca of the North Carolina Almighty Latin King & Queen Nation, celebrates his acquittal for a charge of assaulting a police officer at the Guilford County Courthouse on Monday. Cornell pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was found guilty of resisting and obstructing arrest. (photo by Jordan Green)

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