Motorist on trial after being choked during stop - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Motorist on trial after being choked during stop

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SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — Trial began Thursday for a driver accused of trying to use pepper spray during a traffic stop - after being choked unconscious. 

The defendant, Robert Branch, says none of this would have happened if the officer had been in uniform. 

Cell phone video captured the 2015 confrontation between Branch and sheriff's detective, Paul Ward.

The 30-year veteran was in plain clothes and an unmarked car when he pulled Branch over for reckless driving and then put him in a chokehold.

A former San Diego County sheriff's detective, Ward, testified last April that he decided to use a carotid restraint on a motorist - he had pulled over for reckless driving - when the motorist resisted the detective's attempts to pat him down.

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A witness said Branch went unconscious during the restraint, but woke up as Ward started to pat him down.

Ward said Branch tried to run away, but the former detective said he grabbed him by the wrist and eventually put him in another carotid restraint.  

The witness said Branch threatened to pepper spray him, but Branch ended up dropping the spray.

Branch says he thought Ward was off-duty at the time, and did not think he had to comply. He faces up to five years in prison, if convicted.

Eric Kahnert reported from the Downtown courthouse on opening statements.

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