Two professors from the Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Institute will represent Selorm Ohene, the 21-year-old Harvard student arrested by Cambridge police Friday night.
Ohene’s arrest has garnered attention and sparked controversy due to the use of force by officers in restraining Ohene.
Police said Ohene was naked and possibly on drugs and was hostile toward the officers. Officers pinned Ohene to the ground, and a video of the encounter showed an officer striking Ohene in the stomach as the other officers restrained him.
Professors Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. and Dehlia Umunna released a statement Tuesday saying that they are now Ohene’s attorneys. Sullivan is the director of the Criminal Justice Institute, which provides hands-on experience for students who represent “indigent adults and juvenile clients facing misdemeanor and felony charges in the Boston criminal courts,” according to its website. Umunna is the deputy director.
Ohene, who is studying mathematics at Harvard, is “currently recovering from injuries sustained during his encounter with the Cambridge Police Department,” they said in the statement.
Speaking to reporters Monday afternoon, Cambridge Police Commissioner Branville G. Bard Jr. defended the officers, saying that trying to constrain someone against their will is always difficult.
“I absolutely do support the officers,” he told reporters, according to WBUR. “I mean, the officers took the actions that they felt necessary at that time. But, once again, I am making no determinations prior to completing a thorough investigation.”
Bard added that the department may reconsider some of the charges against Ohene, which include indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, assault, resisting arrest and assault and battery on an ambulance personnel.
Ohene’s situation has certainly garnered attention, but his lawyers noted that “we do not intend to litigate these matters in the media.” The video of the incident “speaks for itself,” they added.
“At this time, our focus is on Selorm’s health and wellbeing,” the statement continued. “We hope that the public will respect his privacy and afford him time and space to heal.”