COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A Columbus police officer was found not guilty Thursday of misdemeanor charges stemming from her conduct during the protests of summer 2020.
Around 2:15 p.m., Franklin County Municipal Court Judge James O’Grady delivered a verdict of not guilty to Sergeant Holly Kanode, who was previously charged with two misdemeanor offenses of falsification and dereliction of duty in connection to her assistance in the arrest of a protester on May 30, 2020, according to court records.
Prosecutors alleged that Kanode, while assisting in the arrest of protester Nadia Lynch, lied to a fellow officer by saying Lynch had grabbed a Columbus police officer and jerked him to the ground. During the trial, prosecutors presented phone and body-camera footage they argued did not show Lynch assaulting an officer.
“I was thrown down on the ground,” Lynch said of her arrest while testifying in court in May, “at which point, I was kind of protected because I felt, like, getting pummeled and I just put my hand over my head, just to protect my head.”
What happened on the day in question was not disputed, but Kanode’s attorneys argued that the sergeant’s actions were not criminal. There’s no way to prove, defense attorneys contended, what Kanode thought she saw amid the chaos of the protests.
Defense attorney Mark Collins said his team did not call a single defense witness to the stand, as they did not believe the state had any proof that Kanode intentionally misled or lied on May 30.
“We don’t believe that these charges should have been filed in the first place,” Collins said. “And that was confirmed by the verdict today.”
The sergeant was “made a scapegoat” throughout the trial for the city of Columbus’ failure to prepare for mass protests, Collins said.
“I don’t think you can discount that those three days were nothing like Columbus has ever experienced, from so many points of view and so many different emotional feelings and stuff like that,” Collins said. “But the bottom line is, the Columbus police department was placed in a very difficult situation.”
Kanode, who waived her right to a jury trial, is the first of three Columbus police officers to go on trial for alleged conduct during protests in the summer of 2020.
Two other officers, Traci Shaw and Phillip Walls, are facing charges of assault, dereliction of duty and interfering with civil rights. Shaw’s trial begins Monday, Collins said.
All three have been placed on administrative duty pending resolution of their cases and will undergo an administrative review once the cases are completed, according to a news release from the police division.
Besides Shaw and Walls, no other Columbus police officers will be charged for conduct related to protests in 2020, according to a special prosecutor assigned to investigate the claims of misconduct. Chief Elaine Bryant announced that only one officer will be investigated by the division’s Internal Affairs Bureau.