A Los Angeles Police Department officer convicted of two felony assault charges for a 2016 off-duty run-in with a man in El Segundo was sentenced Thursday to six years in state prison.
A downtown Los Angeles jury found Joseph William Rooney, 34, guilty May 11 of two counts of assault with a firearm stemming from the May 22, 2016, confrontation in the 100 block of Main Street, along with allegations that he had personally used a handgun.
The six-man, six-woman jury acquitted Rooney of two counts of assault with a firearm involving two other men.
Rooney — who testified in his own defense — described the confrontation as a “minor fight” in which he had his phone in his hand. He denied striking the victim with a gun or even having a gun with him.
He told jurors he “couldn’t believe what they were trying to allege what I did” when he was called in for questioning by El Segundo police about what he described as “honestly a 30-second dust-up.”
“I’m being accused of a crime that is something I would never do. This is a life-changing moment at this point,” Rooney told jurors, noting at the time that he had been on administrative leave from the LAPD for nearly two years.
In his closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Oscar Plascencia reminded jurors of a comment he had made in his opening statement, in which he had told the panel, “This is a case about a bully with a gun who just happened to be an LAPD officer.”
The prosecutor told jurors there was “overwhelming evidence” that the off-duty officer pointed a gun at the man and then pistol-whipped him in the face. The other two men also alleged that Rooney had pointed a gun at them.
Plascencia questioned what motive the three men would have to lie about the encounter, noting that they had never met Rooney before, didn’t know he was a police officer and haven’t filed any civil lawsuits.
Defense attorney Bill Seki urged jurors to acquit his client, questioning why the men waited nearly 36 hours to notify police instead of immediately calling them. He asked jurors whether it was unreasonable to believe that Rooney was holding his cell phone, not a gun, during the fracas.
At a hearing last year in which Rooney was ordered to stand trial, an El Segundo police officer who took statements from the three men testified that each of the men recalled Rooney walking up and down the street and provoking them, though each recalled his words differently.
Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy allowed Rooney to remain free on $200,000 bond after the verdict, but he was ordered to be taken into custody after the sentence was imposed Thursday.
His current status with the LAPD was not immediately clear.