Christopher Johnson, an African-American man, filed a civil rights lawsuit alleging two white deputies choked him for smiling in his mugshot on July 25, 2015 at the Harris County jail in Texas (video below).
Johnson asserts the deputies had their hands around his throat for about 30 seconds while he was being booked on suspicion of drunk driving.
"He was choked, in front of a room full of people, for smiling," Johnson's lawyer, Andre Evans, told KTRK. "That's very humiliating."
The lawsuit alleges that a deputy told Johnson to cease smiling during his mugshot, to which Johnson responded with: "This is how I always take my pictures … I'm going to beat this case. Why wouldn't I smile?," according to the Houston Chronicle.
"We gon' to make you stop smiling," one deputy replied. A second deputy came over and they pushed Johnson's head against a wall and choked him, according to the lawsuit.
After the alleged incident, Johnson said he asked for medical care, but was told to "sit down and shut up."
The lawsuit also asserts other jail employees knew what happened, but did not intervene.
The Harris County Sheriff's Office told KTRK that jailers often have to hold people's heads still for mugshot, but folks have been allowed to smile and make faces. To back this assertion up, the sheriff's office released mugshots of white people.
The sheriff's office also said in a statement that it "believes that proper procedure was followed during the course of Mr. Johnson's booking."
"Should any evidence arise to the contrary, proper administrative actions will be taken," the statement continued, according to KTRK. "At this time, evidence suggests that Mr. Johnson's pleading does not hold merit."
"What took place at the Harris County jail that night was a clear violation of my client's first amendment free speech rights as well as a childish show of excessive force," Evans told KTRK.
Johnson's trial for his alleged DUI is reportedly set for June 27.
"We have our experts and we're ready to go," Morris Overstreet, Johnson's criminal defense attorney, told the Houston Chronicle.
Sources: KTRK, Houston Chronicle / Photo Credit: KTRK/Harris County Sheriff's Office via Hezakya Mixologist/YouTube