The Rock Hill man police say gave the middle finger to a city police officer in September before a scuffle with the officer was found guilty of two charges Tuesday by a Rock Hill municipal court jury, but not guilty of a third.
Michael Ronkeyvius Douglas, 21, was convicted of public disorderly conduct and resisting police from the Sept. 1 incident, then was sentenced to 60 days in jail by Judge Jane Modla. He was found not guilty of marijuana possession.
Rock Hill prosecutor Chris Barton acknowledged that flipping the bird is protected free speech and not illegal, but said the reason that Douglas was arrested was “he wanted a confrontation with law enforcement that day.”
Douglas’ choices that day caused the problems, Barton argued to the jury.
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Douglas’ girlfriend, Michelle Schechter, 19, was found not guilty of failure to identify herself to police and public disorderly conduct. Both Douglas and Schechter represented themselves Tuesday and blamed police for starting the incident.
Police car dash cam video played in court showed part of the confrontation between Officer Sarah Arrington and Douglas and Schechter, but not the two times that Arrington said Douglas flipped her the bird. The video did include much of the screaming done by both Douglas and Schechter, and the officer can be heard saying that she alleged Douglas flipped her off.
There was a claim of racial bias from Douglas that police reported at the time of arrest, but race never came up in the trial. Douglas is black: The officer who arrested him, Arrington, is white.
In court, Douglas denied giving Arrington the finger repeatedly, yet reiterated several times in his opening arguments and in testimony that flipping off a police officer is protected free speech. More, Douglas, a father who works two jobs, claimed he was “assaulted” and “scared for my life” in the confrontation.
Douglas said in court he had “seen plenty of videos of people getting killed by the police.”
Douglas even testified Tuesday of Arrington the officer: “I thought she was going to kill me.”
Yet, prosecutors and police said that it was Douglas who started the problems and balked at any notion that Arrington was the aggressor.
Arrington, an officer with 15 years of experience, testified that Douglas was combative after she initially followed him into a parking lot after Douglas flipped her off. Arrington testified that Douglas’ slamming on brakes of the vehicle he was driving was a traffic hazard, so she pulled in after him. That’s when she testified that Douglas again flipped her off, cursed at her and refused to give her identification.
“All I intended to do was say, “I don’t care how you feel about me, but you can’t be a traffic hazard,’” Arrington testified.
Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065