HOUSTON, TX - Some people smile after getting into trouble. Others get choked up. But a Houston man managed to do "both" at the same time and now he's suing.
Christopher Johnson filed a suit against the Harris County Sheriff's Department after claims that booking personnel assaulted him for smiling during his mugshot. Andre Evans, Johnson's attorney says, "The Harris County employee told him that if he didn't stop smiling, that he was going to make him stop smiling. He then got another employee of Harris County jail and they both place there hands around his neck. This is a clear violation of him first amendment free speech rights, as well as a case of excessive force."
The photo was taken after Johnson was arrested and charged with suspicion of drunk driving almost a year ago on July 25, 2015. According to the claim, two county employees didn't like the way Johnson was mugging for his mugshot. They allegedly ridiculed and insulted the smiling inmate, before taking matters into their own hands. Evans adds, "He's being choked. You know, his eyes are popping. His shirt is jack up." Johnson, who says he takes all his photos with a big smile, is seen smirking throughout the choke hold which according to the suit, lasted at least 30 seconds.
The Harris County Sheriff's Department is not commenting on this specific incident, but states, "It is not uncommon for detention personnel to assist impaired or uncooperative detainees during the booking photo process." But according to the county, there is no policy or procedure that prohibits smiling during the booking photo process.
Now a judge will have to decide whether Johnson's civil rights were violated. Until then, Mr. Smiley will have to continue to grin and bear it.