A Florida man accused of hitting a 5-year-old with a tennis racket wants the child abuse charges against him dismissed, saying he acted in self-defense.
Osmailer Torres, a tennis instructor, was arrested in 2016 after surveillance video showed him taking a tennis racket from a young boy and hitting him with it, according to the Miami Herald. The 5-year-old was left with a bruise on his right arm and a lump on his eyebrow.
Torres' defense lawyer Eduardo Pereira has called on the judge to grant "immunity" in the case, arguing that the boy was the "initial aggressor" and the instructor was simply trying to protect other students from harm's way.
The boy had allegedly been previously involved in "various violent altercations" against students. Torres initially separated him from the other children on the day of the incident, causing the 5-year-old to lift his racket "in the air."
Pereira claims the boy was "poised to strike again against the other students and Mr. Torres."
Pereira also invoked Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law, which makes it easier for courts to clear charges against those who claim that they had no choice but to use violence.
Pereira described Torres, who also works as a Sunday school teacher, as a "soft-spoken and professional" who had never had any previous problems with the law.
"This was always viewed as an accident by the child and the school staff but is being treated as something more for reasons unknown," said Pereira, who said Torres had no idea that his racket even hit the boy at first.
But the prosecution argues that the surveillance video that “at no point did the 5-year-old child approach any of the other children in an aggressive manner."
The boy can be seen holding his arm in pain, and the prosecution argues that the boy in no way saw the attack as an accident.
"It is the state’s position that [Torres] was not acting under the imminent threat of danger to himself or others," said Assistant State Attorney Gabriela Plasencia.
Florida's Stand Your Ground law has long been criticized by law enforcement officials and criminal justice advocates, according to The Guardian. The law states that a "person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked" has the right to "stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force."
The law sparked national debate in 2012 after police used it as a reason to not initially arrest George Zimmerman, who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin after telling 911 dispatchers that the teen looked suspicious.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Oscar Rodriguez-Fonts will hear Torres' defense at an "immunity" hearing early next year, according to the Miami Herald.