Wagstaff and legislators want charges dropped

Poughkeepsie city police

POUGHKEEPSIE – Attorney William Wagstaff is continuing to call for charges against his clients to be dismissed. He now has the support of Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney.

Wagstaff represents sisters Jamelia Barnett and Julissa Dawkins who were at a fight with several other teens in March of 2019 in which City of Poughkeepsie Police responded to break-up the melee.  During the incident, police say that the sisters jumped on the back of officer John Williams and were “slammed to the ground,” according to Wagstaff.

The two daughters were subsequently arrested on charges of obstructing governmental administration and are being tried in Dutchess County Family Court.

A police investigation of the initial disturbance was also captured on a 17-second cell phone video which Wagstaff said shows “excessive force.”

The internal investigation exonerated Williams of the excessive force allegation.  The takedown was determined to be a “textbook arm-bar takedown” and the report says that no excessive force was used.  Officer Williams also serves as a certified defensive tactics instructor.

In March of 2020, Dutchess County Family Court Judge MacKenzie dismissed the case against Jamelia Barrett provided certain criteria were met.  The court proceedings that day included Judge Mackenzie chastising a city detective for his alleged mishandling of the evidence.  The description of the entire court proceeding from that day can be found here.

William Wagstaff, Esq.

The two juveniles, through Wagstaff, filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Poughkeepsie and the officers alleging civil rights violations.

In response to a recent forum in which Maloney was criticized for not stepping in on behalf of the two girls, the congressman released a statement that included “At a minimum, Dutchess County should immediately drop the charges against Jamelia Barnett and Julissa Dawkins and demand accountability for what this family has experienced.  While I have no formal authority in this area, I do have a voice. So, I am communicating directly with the County Executive and Mayor to achieve this goal.”

On Monday, July 13, reinvigorated by Maloney’s recommendation, Wagstaff and the Democratic caucus of the Dutchess County Legislature, led by Minority Leader Rebecca Edwards sent a letter to Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro renewing request to drop the charges against the two girls and settle the federal lawsuit.

“The county attorney agreed to the settlement request made by the family’s attorney. His request would result in charges being dismissed. I was happy to hear this news and relieved we could move forward as a community and these young women could move forward with their lives. However, I learned their Attorney rejected his own request – he rejected what he asked for,” said County Executive Marc Molinaro.

Eloise Maxey, president of the Northern Dutchess NAACP, has called for the State Attorney General to investigate the police department and for additional police resources such as a youth resource officer for the department.