FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Justin Lambert, the Broward Sheriff's Office deputy who was accused of using excessive force during an arrest five years ago, was found guilty on Tuesday of felony battery and of falsifying records.
The verdict was handed by a jury in Broward County court in Fort Lauderdale following a week-long trial. Prosecutors charged Lambert with felony battery resulting in great bodily harm and falsifying a public or court record in June 2015.
The charges stem from Lambert's actions when he responded Feb. 18, 2014 to a Texaco gas station at 4517 N. Dixie Highway in Deerfield Beach to investigate a theft. Surveillance video shows Lambert pushing David Gonzalez, who was accused of stealing beer.
Lambert, 38, pushed Gonzalez twice. The second push was against a store window. His next move was to grab Gonzalez to take him down to the ground. Prosecutors charged Lambert with battery saying that they believe the second push was unnecessary.
Gonzalez, 55, of Pompano Beach, admitted to being drunk and under the influence of cocaine when the 15-year veteran of BSO arrested him. He suffered facial fractures and a swollen black eye.
Lambert, who didn't include the details of his violent interaction with Gonzalez in the police report, was suspended with pay April 2015.
Chris Killoran and Rayna Karadbil are the prosecutors in the case, and Eric Schwartzreich is Lambert's defense attorney.
During his testimony on Monday, Lambert said Gonzalez was a threat. Being that the surveillance video doesn't have audio and isn't clear, Lambert said he wished he and his colleagues would have been wearing a body camera.
"I wish we had," Lambert said. "I wouldn't be here right now."
Lambert faces a maximum of five years in prison for the felony charge and a maximum punishment of up to one year in jail for the misdemeanor charge. The deputy is free pending sentencing, which is scheduled at 3 p.m., Aug. 29.
Gonzalez has a related civil case pending. This isn't the first time Lambert had to defend his actions recorded on video. BSO paid a $350,000 settlement to a couple accusing Lambert of shooting Jorge Rodriguez, 50, with a Taser gun and beating him in 2009.