AFTER DELIBERATING for three days, a Common Pleas jury yesterday sided with a mother of five who had been found guilty in a lower court of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct for shouting at a man who had been poking around a van that held her sleeping children.
That man happened to be Officer Philip Sprague, an undercover cop with the 22nd District in North Philadelphia, and she was hit by a stun gun multiple times by officers who had responded to his call for back-up.
The jury was grappling with questions as to whether Naimah Jones, 34, could be convicted of resisting arrest if she didn't believe Sprague was an officer.
"She has to know it's a police officer," presiding Common Pleas Judge Charles Cunningham III told the jury. "If she doesn't know, then she can't be guilty of resisting arrest. But once she realized, she has to go along with the program."
During her first trial in February in Municipal Court, Jones testified that on Nov. 27, 2010, she stopped by her North Philly home to grab some luggage, leaving her children in a van for a few minutes.
When she heard someone knocking on her car door, she yelled from her second-floor window for the man to get away from her car, she said, adding that he didn't identify himself.
She said he charged at her and choked her after she rushed outside to confront him, adding that he then said he was a cop, but she didn't believe him because he didn't show a badge and she didn't see a marked car. The judge found her guilty of resisting arrest and sentenced her to 18 months' reporting probation and anger management.
Jones appealed, and at her second trial her attorneys James Lee and Joseph Green argued that she acted as any mother would.
"She sees a person in plainclothes, there's no way for her to know it's a police officer," Lee told the jury. "She goes into protection mode."
Sprague, who testified last week with his badge hanging from his neck, said that he had identified himself and that the undercover vehicle had flashing lights that would indicate he was a cop. He added that he was concerned for the safety of the children, who he said were in the van for about 15 minutes on what he described as a cold night.
"Police officers take an oath to protect this city and to protect this constitution," said Assistant District Attorney Nellie Fitzpatrick. "That's exactly what these police officers did. They came into contact with someone who has no respect for the laws of the city."
Jones, who had never been arrested, filed a complaint with police Internal Affairs, but the officers were cleared, said Lt. Kevin Long.