A former Flagstaff police officer has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor aggravated assault more than a year after punching a woman in the face while attempting to arrest her.
According to the plea agreement, one of the two counts of felony aggravated assault against former FPD officer Jeffrey Bonar was dismissed and the second count was reduced to a misdemeanor.
The woman Bonar punched, Marrisa Morris, is unhappy that he is getting off "easy," said Ben Taylor, Morris' attorney.
"She felt that he deserved the felony charges and a harsher penalty," he said. "She feels that he's getting special treatment because he was a police officer."
In November 2016, Bonar was caught on video punching Morris in the face after attempting to arrest her. Bonar and Coconino County Sheriff’s Deputy Joel Winchester were doing an eviction compliance check when they met Morris. Bonar thought Morris had an outstanding warrant and attempted to arrest her.
In the video Morris resists Bonar’s attempts to arrest her, telling him that the warrant had been cleared. Bonar appears on the video to punch her twice in the face as the two struggled.
Bonar resigned before he could be fired from the Flagstaff Police force in January 2017 after the video, taken by a bystander, went viral on local social media channels. He was indicted by a grand jury on March 1, 2017, on two felony counts of aggravated assault. The case was turned over to the Mohave County Attorney’s Office to avoid a conflict of interest by local prosecutors. The case was dismissed after a judge ruled that prosecutors left out statements by Bonar that he was responding to kicks and punches by Morris.
Bonar was indicted by a new grand jury on two counts of felony aggravated assault in February and entered a plea of not guilty. He rejected one plea agreement offered by the Mohave County Attorney in March before accepting this plea agreement.
Bonar’s guilty plea will not be officially entered into the court record until he completes 18 months of unsupervised probation. If he completes his probation without incident, his conviction for misdemeanor aggravated assault will be removed from his record. If he violates his probation terms, he faces up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
In order to meet his probation requirements, Bonar must attend an anger management program approved by the court, complete 80 hours of community service and pay a $500 fine.
Mohave County Deputy Attorney James Schoppman told the court that restitution to Marris Morris, the woman Bonar punched, has been settled in a separate matter.
During the hearing, Bonar’s attorney, Marc Victor, said that Bonar is currently in school and working toward entering a new career. Victor also contended that an expert on police use of force from the Phoenix area had testified that Bonar had not used excessive force in the incident with Morris and had done nothing wrong in attempting to subdue her for arrest.
Taylor said the civil notice of claim for $1 million against the city of Flagstaff and Bonar is still in the process of being settled.
"She just hopes that other agencies can learn from the mistakes that were made here," he said.