Ex-Hartford police officer heads to trial in brutality case

Van Buren County

HARTFORD TOWNSHIP Mich. (WOOD) — A former Hartford police officer accused of using excessive force during an arrest will be heading to trial, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

In August 2020, Matthew Mistretta was conducting a traffic stop for a driver, Lauro Espino, who was speeding and driving carelessly, authorities said.

Video taken by a bystander and posted to social media appears to show Mistretta remove Espino from the truck and throw the handcuffed suspect onto a patrol car then onto the ground before kneeling on him, authorities said.

Nessel said the video shows that the suspect did not resist police during the arrest. A passenger in the vehicle says Espino told Mistretta he couldn’t breathe.

Mistretta, 31, was formally charged in May in connection to the arrest. He was arraigned on two counts of assault and battery, a 93-day misdemeanor, and one count or misconduct in office by a public official, a five-year felony.

The attorney general’s office said it conducted several public integrity investigations before charging Mistretta.

After a preliminary hearing on Thursday, a judge ordered Mistretta to stand trial in circuit court.

“My office will continue to hold public servants accountable who fail to uphold the integrity of their oath to protect and serve,” Nessel said.

Mistretta is set to appear in circuit court on Sept. 20.

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