‘He destroyed my face’: Man gets prison time for punching officer

SAN DIEGO -- A man who punched a San Diego police officer in the face after being ordered to stop walking in the middle of the street near a rally at Chicano Park was sentenced Friday to seven years in state prison.

Frederick Jefferson, 39, was convicted earlier this month of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, resisting an executive officer and a misdemeanor count of resisting an officer.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Reilly said Jefferson was "defiant" when Officers Matthew Ruggiero and Justin Tennebaum gave him a simple command to walk on the sidewalk near where two rival groups were rallying in the park the morning of Feb. 3.

The prosecutor said the officers had every right to stop and enforce traffic laws against jaywalking and to use force when Jefferson reacted violently to their requests to move onto the sidewalk. "Get out of the street," one of the officers said to Jefferson. "C'mon dude, stop! You're gonna get a ticket, or go to jail!"

The prosecutor said Jefferson reacted suddenly and violently when the officers got out of their patrol car and tried to grab the defendant's arms and move him out of the street.

"Don't you put your hands on me," Jefferson is heard saying on one of the officer's body-worn cameras.

Reilly said Ruggiero pulled out his police baton but didn't use it on Jefferson until the defendant started swinging at him. Ruggiero was hit in the face two or three times and suffered a fractured nose and cheekbone. Jefferson struggled with at least five other officers before being taken to the ground and handcuffed.

Ruggiero spoke to the defendant before sentencing, telling Jefferson he was an "irate, violent person" who changed the officer's life forever.

"He destroyed my face with a single punch," Ruggiero told Judge Leo Valentine Jr.

The officer's wife, Lauren, said her 7-year-old daughter is in counseling, and for awhile after the incident cried every time her father left the house.

Jefferson said on that day, he felt the need to protect himself and said he acted in self-defense. The judge told the defendant that the officers were just trying to do their job that day. "You were in complete control," the judge told Jefferson. "You controlled this from the beginning."

Jefferson has been charged in Baltimore, Maryland, with the 2009 rape of an 18-year-old, Reilly told the judge.