Emmett Brock, a Trans Man Who Was Beaten by an LA County Deputy, Declared Innocent by Judge

More than a year after he was beaten and jailed by a Los Angeles police officer, transgender man Emmett Brock has been declared “factually innocent” of all charges against him, as his own lawsuit against the police moves forward.

On March 8, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge declared Brock, 24, innocent of three felonies — mayhem, resisting arrest, and obstruction — as well as a misdemeanor charge of failure to obey a police officer, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday. Though prosecutors dropped their case against Brock back in August, a finding of “factual innocence” means the court has declared that the plain facts of the case alone exonerate him. That could help Brock’s chances in his new legal challenge against Los Angeles County and members of its Sheriff’s Department, from whom he is seeking more than $10,000 in damages, as the Times confirmed.

“I can finally exhale,” Brock said in a statement to the Times following Judge Evan Kitahara’s decision to declare him factually innocent. “It felt like I’d been holding my breath for over a year.”

Though he was never convicted, Brock still lost his high school teaching job shortly after his arrest in February 2023. According to court documents, Brock was on his way to an appointment just after noon on February 10 when he drove by an officer who Brock said appeared to be berating a woman during a traffic stop. Brock gave the cop the finger as he passed. The officer, LA County Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Benza, then abandoned his traffic stop, followed Brock for several blocks to a 7-Eleven parking lot without turning on his lights or siren, and proceeded to throw Brock to the ground and punch him repeatedly while telling him to “stop resisting.” Brock was later treated for a concussion.

Benza later claimed that Brock had tried to bite him, but a medical report found “no evidence” to support the accusation. Police also held Brock in a women’s jail cell after forcing him to display his genitals, per court documents. The Times reported that both Los Angeles district attorney George Gascón and the FBI are investigating Benza’s alleged attack, with Brock’s lawyer Thomas Beck speculating that the deputy could be prosecuted for excessive use of force.