A man who was arrested last June during a protest at the Lancaster police station — and who prompted the county’s president judge to notify the public that the man said he had COVID-19 — has pleaded guilty.
Julio Torres, 23, had been charged with riot, aggravated assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct for his involvement in a June 1 protest following social justice demonstrations in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Police said Torres threw objects at them and threw a barricade into the street.
He is serving a sentence of four years of probation after pleading guilty in January to aggravated assault — a second-degree felony — and misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. The riot charge, a third-degree felony, was dropped.
His attorney, Hobie Crystle, said Monday that Torres never rioted and had been moving the barricade to block Chestnut Street, where the protest was happening.
“He did struggle with the police when arrested and resisted to the point of kicking at officers who were trying to put him in a police car. He expressed great remorse for that,” Crystle said.
While several people were arrested during the June protests, Torres garnered attention after Judge David Ashworth disclosed that Torres said he had COVID-19.
According to an account by District Judge Scott Albert at the time of Torres’ arrest, Torres revealed his COVID-positive status during his video arraignment from Lancaster County Prison the morning of June 2.
Albert said Torres told him he was in the quarantine unit because he had COVID, saying he was tested May 27 at Clipper Magazine Stadium and was told to self-quarantine for two weeks.
Apparent results Torres later made public indicated he was tested May 7, meaning a 14-day quarantine would have been over before the protest.
Crystle, at the time, chalked the discrepancy up to a misinterpretation, noting Torres is soft-spoken.
But Ashworth, also at the time, stood by his decision to identify Torres as COVID-19-positive, citing the health risk to an estimated 250 protesters and law enforcement. And, he said, it was becoming commonplace for people to say they had COVID to avoid incarceration.
Torres is also awaiting trial, scheduled for June 4, on a robbery charge.
While he was in jail last June on the protest arrest, East Lampeter Township police charged him with robbing a Greenfield Inn employee in June 2019.
The victim found Torres inside the victim’s car and confronted him, police said. Torres punched and choked the man and gouged his eye, then ran away, police said.
The victim’s bloodied shirt was sent to a lab, where DNA was extracted and linked to Torres, police said. Torres had been living about 500 feet from the restaurant.