UPDATE: DA to evaluate 5 cases that rely on testimony by Chattanooga officer caught on camera punching driver
UPDATE: Five cases that relied upon testimony from Chattanooga Police Officer Benjamin Piazza are being evaluated by District Attorney General Neal Pinkston.
Piazza is now on modified duty after being placed on paid administrative leave after a video surfaced of him punching Fredrico Wolfe last year during a traffic stop.
Pinkston's office says that questions by Channel 3's newspartners at the Chattanooga Times Free Press prompted the evaluation after he learned that Piazza had returned to duty and recently presented cases to the grand jury.
In Tennessee, law enforcement officers — not prosecutors — present cases to a grand jury, according to Pinkston's office spokesman Melydia Clewell.
Determining how to move forward with Piazza’s pending cases is made even more difficult by CPD internal affairs investigations which showed Piazza lied to supervisors on at least two occasions, according to Clewell.
After the evaluation, DA Pinkston will determine the path forward on cases that used Piazza's testimony.
Cases which rely solely on Piazza’s testimony will be dismissed, Clewell said.
Wolfe's attorney, Robin Flores, says Piazza returning to work, "sends a message to the troops that it is okay. Our position would be and is that Mr. Piazza is a threat to the public."
FLORES SAYS THAT IS THE ARGUMENT HE IS MAKING IN A CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUIT he plans to file soon AGAINST PIAZZA AND ON BEHALF OF HIS CLIENT.
"whether a jury believes that remains to be seen," fLORES SAID.
PREVIOUS STORY: Benjamin Piazza, the officer who was placed on paid administrative leave after a video surfaced of him punching a man last year during a traffic stop, is back at work on modified duty.
A spokesperson with the Chattanooga Police Department said Piazza is on modified duty.
Members of the NAACP said they are concerned that allowing Piazza to work at all gives him access to information that they believe he shouldn't be allow to see.
"While he's at work he has access to files and other things that may not need to be made privy to him,” Elenora Woods with the NAACP said with concern. “From that perspective, we feel that this is not the right decision."
Piazza was placed on administrative leave on January 18, 2019, shortly after the video surfaced.
A Chattanooga police spokesperson confirms Piazza was placed on modified duty one week later, on January 25. On modified duty, he can work in Teleserve, work in an administrative role, or handle clerical work where he has direct, close supervision and little to no contact with the public.
"We were very proud of the fact the decision to suspend him was made very quickly,” said Woods. “We're not very happy with the fact that the decision to allow him to go back to work was not made visible to the community."
Woods said the NAACP felt they were working alongside law enforcement during the process, but now feel like they were left in the dark when this decision was made.
"Our dialogue has been very open. We've been very transparent,” Woods urged, “We've asked the police department, the Mayor, to remain transparent with the people. So, the level of trust seems to have disappeared for the moment, at least."