Gwinnett DA to seek indictment, new charges in traffic stop beating

The Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office intends to pursue new felony charges against two former police officers when it presents its case to a grand jury later this month.

The charges, which will be pursued against now-former Gwinnett police Sgt. Michael Bongiovanni and Master Officer Robert McDonald — who were fired and arrested last April after striking a black motorist during a controversial traffic stop — include a new count of aggravated assault, according to a draft of the indictment that will be presented to a grand jury on Feb. 28.

The aggravated assault accusation stems from a gun being pointed at driver Demetrius Hollins during the now-infamous traffic stop near Lawrenceville. And while Bongiovanni is also charged with lying in his account of the incident and both officers are charged with battery and with violating their oath of office, the new felony accusation may prove to be the most controversial of the 10 counts that are planned to be presented.

McDonald is accused of pointing his gun at 21-year-old Hollins during the traffic stop. Bongiovanni would be charged as a party to the crime.

“It concerns me because basically we are telling our officers … that they have to police with their hands handcuffed behind their back and they have to second guess even removing a firearm from its holster,” Mike Puglise, Bongiovanni’s attorney and a former police officer himself, said Wednesday.

The traffic stop that led to Bongiovanni and McDonald’s original arrest began shortly after 4 p.m. on April 12. According to police accounts and cellphone videos that later surfaced, Hollins was stopped while driving near the Lawrenceville-area intersection of Sugarloaf Parkway and Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road.

Bongiovanni was then seen striking Hollins in the head while he stood outside his car with both hands up.

Another video showed McDonald arriving at the scene and, with Hollins already lying on the ground and handcuffed, stomping on Hollins’ head.

Both officers, who are white, were fired the day after the incident when separate cellphone videos of the traffic stop surfaced. They were later charged with battery and violation of oath by public officer.

More from subscriber site In deeply diverse Gwinnett, white residents confront minority status

The proposed indictment drafted by District Attorney Danny Porter includes those charges and more — 10 counts in all, though they are not divided evenly among the officers.

McDonald, a three-year veteran of the Gwinnett County Police Department at the time will face the original charges and the new aggravated assault allegation.

Bongiovanni, who had been with GCPD since 1998, will face eight of the charges: one count of aggravated assault, three counts of violation of oath of office, two counts of false writings and two counts of battery.

The separate battery charges against Bongiovanni stem from him allegedly striking and Tasering Hollins. Porter said the false writing counts are tied to Bongiovanni lying in his report from the encounter.

The district attorney said Bongiovanni claimed he was in a “higher defensive posture” during the traffic stop because he recalled a previous encounter with Hollins. But a witness said Bongiovanni admitted he had not remembered that encounter before looking it up later, Porter said.

Stay up to the minute with breaking news on Channel 2 Action News This Morning

Of all the charges being pursued against the officers, aggravated assault would likely carry the heftiest sentence if it were indicted, tried and convicted.

Porter defended trying to charge a police officer for pointing his gun at someone.

“He was pointing a gun at someone who was handcuffed and on the ground and, according to a witness, put the gun to his head,” Porter said of McDonald. “Officers point guns at people all the time. But they have to be justified in doing it.”

McDonald’s attorney, Walt Britt, confirmed Wednesday that his client was being served with a grand jury notice but said he hadn’t seen it yet.

“We will respond accordingly to this summons and any indictment that may or may not be returned by the grand jury,” Britt said.

Puglise, Bongiovanni’s attorney, said his client was “prepared to stand by” his actions during the traffic stop. He wasn’t sure if Bongiovanni would testify in front of the grand jury.

Under a new Georgia law passed in 2016, police officers facing criminal charges are subject to cross-examination if they choose to testify during grand jury proceedings.


The AJC's Tyler Estep keeps you updated on the latest happenings in Gwinnett County government and politics. You'll find more on, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in Gwinnett politics. Subscribe to

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Chattahoochee Hills residents to discuss millage rate
Chattahoochee Hills residents to discuss millage rate

The mayor and city council for the City of Chattahoochee Hills recently announced its intention to set the millage rate at 10.00 mills, according to a press release. That’s the same rate as 2017 when the millage rate was rolled back from 10.958. A discussion has been set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7 in the Council Chambers, 6505 Rico Road, Chattahoochee...
Section of Henry County’s Lake Dow Road to close for repairs
Section of Henry County’s Lake Dow Road to close for repairs

Henry County officials are planning for close Lake Dow Road between Allie Drive and Monroe Drive, at the east end of Georgia National Country Club, for several months for necessary repair work. The actual construction will involve raising Lake Dow Road a minimum of four feet and will take 3-4 months to complete (depending on weather). Engineering design...
Bond rating agencies give Gwinnett highest possible scores
Bond rating agencies give Gwinnett highest possible scores

All three bond rating agencies have given Gwinnett a AAA/Aaa bond rating, the highest possible, placing Gwinnett in the top 2 percent of counties in the nation for fiscal soundness. This marks the 21st consecutive year Gwinnett has held this distinction. The rating allows the county to issue or refinance bonds at favorable rates, which reduces the...
Road work will close lanes on State Route 17/75 near Helen
Road work will close lanes on State Route 17/75 near Helen

Maintenance and construction crews with the Georgia DOT will begin extending the culvert underneath State Route 17/75 near Helen beginning this week. In order to get this repair work complete, single lane closures will occur near Andrews Cove Campground between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. This work will be performed in stages over the next three months. Drivers...
More Cherokee schools to get security foyers
More Cherokee schools to get security foyers

The Cherokee County School Board has accelerated the installation of security foyers by approving 15 more schools to receive them. The school board approved a $641,000 proposal from Womack, Lewis & Smith to install the foyers in the coming year at Avery, Bascomb, Boston, Clayton, Hickory Flat, Johnston, Macedonia, Mountain Road and Sixes elementary...
More Stories