Williamsport, Pa. — A 28-year-old woman who recently moved to the Williamsport area will spend nearly the entire month of September incarcerated at the Lycoming County Prison for summary offenses of disorderly conduct and harassment she received during a police confrontation nearly a year ago.
During her non-jury trial Aug. 3, Judge Eric Linhardt told Anaise Margarita Lopez, who at the time was visiting the area from Massachusetts, that she showed no remorse for her actions and sentenced her to prison time.
NorthcentralPa.com first reported on Lopez's arrest in September of 2021 from a police affidavit filed by Williamsport Police Officer Clint Gardner. According to Gardner’s account, Officer Zach Geary was kicked on his right hand and inner portion of his elbow when attempting to take Lopez into custody, which resulted in felony aggravated assault charges against the woman.
Related reading: Williamsport woman allegedly kicks officer, yells racial slurs
On the day of Lopez’s arrest, according to Gardner’s testimony, he first noticed Lopez's car at a stoplight where he said both Lopez and the passenger "made efforts to ignore" their presence, according to the affidavit.
Later in the afternoon on Aug. 31, Gardner said he again observed the vehicle leaving an area known by police for high narcotic trafficking. He said both Lopez and the passenger again "made clear efforts to act as tho (sic) police were not following."
Failure to acknowledge authorities and their location in an area known for drug trafficking prompted the officers to follow the vehicle, according to Gardner.
The officers followed the car for nearly eight blocks from High Street to Washington Boulevard where it pulled into a gas pump stall at the Turkey Hill.
“Once the vehicle parked and the two excited, we were directly behind them. They did not look in our direction once. I know from my experience that this Turkey Hill is a high narcotic trafficking area,” Gardner wrote in the affidavit of probable cause.
Gardner reported smelling marijuana as he approached the car, and said he saw a smoked marijuana cigarette, commonly referred to as a roach, in an ashtray on the driver’s side door.
“I immediately detected the odor of marijuana emitting from the vehicle,” Gardner wrote.
Gardner also wrote, "The female exited the store and immediately confronted us."
Body cam footage from Gardner and his partner Detective Calvin Irvin show the officers confronting Lopez and her passenger at the Turkey Hill. Footage shows that when the two question police about the reason for the stop and refuse to show identification, officers detain and handcuff both individuals.
"I explained to the pair what I observed and I explained their options," Gardner wrote in the affidavit of probable cause.
Lopez told NorthcentralPa.com that she had never been handcuffed prior to the incident.
"I don't know why they are taking so much out on me for just being angry and upset," Lopez said during an interview. "I don't understand. I've never done anything. I don't have this big long record and this is the final straw. I've never been in trouble before and they are treating me like I'm a criminal."
Footage from the confrontation shows Lopez admitting to smoking marijuana two days prior in Massachusetts, where it is recreationally legal. She also requests a female officer several times prior to being handcuffed and forcibly placed into the back of a cruiser.
“We almost had to drag her to the vehicle,” Gardner testified. “She struck officers with her feet," at which point Gardner told Lopez she would be charged with aggravated assault.
“We had to carry her to the vehicle,” Officer Zach Geary testified. “She was lifted into the vehicle and sat down.”
In his closing arguments, Lopez’s defense lawyer, George Leply, said she was “thrown” into the cruiser.
Prosecutor Matt Welickovitch said, “the kick is what the kick is,” as he closed his argument.
The marijuana Gardner testified that he saw in the vehicle was never tested or seized as evidence. Lopez was never charged with possession.
Judge Linhardt, in handing down his sentence, said, “The court finds that the evidence is not only clear and credible, but really overwhelming of the Defendant’s guilt with regard to both the summary disorderly conduct and the summary harassment.”
Charges of second-degree felony aggravated assault and second-degree misdemeanor for simple assault were dropped.
"This entire matter escalated solely because of the Defendant's behavior and her friend's behavior, all of which was unnecessary,” Linhardt continued.
“The officers had every right to conduct an investigation; and had the Defendant cooperated in that investigation, I imagine that she would have been free to go on her way in probably less than five minutes, but instead, finds herself handcuffed, arrested, taken down to the police station, and charged with a felony,” he said.
Lindhardt said Lopez put her own safety, the public’s safety, and the officer’s safety at risk.
Lopez was offered a misdemeanor plea deal to settle on the charges, but declined it, maintaining her innocence. The deal would have given her six months of probation.
“The Court considers your utter lack of acceptance of any responsibility for your behavior that day--you were offered, as reflected in the court file, a misdemeanor plea offer for six months of probation at the time of your preliminary hearing, which you declined," Linhardt told Lopez.
After Lopez was arrested, she said she waited for officers alone at the Williamsport Police Station. She was denied use of the bathroom throughout her interview, according the video recording which was also shown at Lopez's trial.
In his initial arrest report, Gardner accused Lopez of using racial slurs. During the video of the police interview at the station, Lopez can be heard telling Gardner, "white people don't know how to spell Latino names."
Linhardt ordered Lopez to self-report to the Lycoming County Prison on Sept. 5 by 9 a.m. to begin her 28-day sentence of incarceration.
"For the reasons the Court has already stated,” he said, “the fact that it takes assault on police officers seriously, the fact that the Defendant has refused to accept responsibility in the face of overwhelming evidence, the fact that her behavior on that day put herself, the public, and law enforcement officers at risk, the Court believes that any sentence less than some period of incarceration would fail to account for the seriousness of the Defendant's criminal behavior on that day."
Court records show Lopez had no prior convictions or charges in Lycoming County before the trial.
"I just wanted to continue my life without having a record," Lopez said about why she didn’t take the original plea deal. "I wanted to have a family and do more traveling and I don't want this to hold me back. I'm sorry they think I haven't learned my lesson. That's not the case. I want to walk away from this and move on with my life."