Mahmut Yilmaz may no longer work at Pizza Milano in Uptown, but last week, he walked out of a courtroom a free man.
And that has members of some local organizations outraged.
“Not only was the verdict unjust, but it is indeed another demonstration of how little the lives, safety and security of Black people, especially Black women, actually matter,” said Khalid Raheem with the New Afrikan Independence Party.
“If it were a Black manager that attacked a White patron in that manner, the question of justification would never come up. All you would see is a Black man attacking a White woman, and the verdict would instantly be attempted homicide,” said local resident Sabrina Clark.
[pullquote]“A jury of no one’s peers but Mahmut Yilmaz’s delivered a not guilty verdict to a man who brutally beat a Black woman on tape.”
NICKY JO DAWSON
Activist[/pullquote]These statements were echoed outside the City-County Building during a press conference, Aug. 17, two days after a jury—of which no members were African American—found Yilmaz not guilty of aggravated and simple assault in the Jan. 11 incident involving Jade Martin at the pizza shop.
In the 70-second video posted to Facebook, Yilmaz, who was a manager at Pizza Milano, is seen tackling Martin, a Black woman, to the ground, then repeatedly slamming her head against the floor. Several seconds pass before more employees finally break up the altercation.
The following day, protesters braved the frigid temperatures in front of Pizza Milano on Fifth Avenue to demand that no one patronize the business, calling them “women beaters,” and “racists.”
Yilmaz eventually surrendered to police and was charged. But during the two-day trial, defense attorney James DePasquale implored jurors to see a video of greater length, 22 minutes to be exact, which allegedly showed a belligerent Martin causing a disturbance inside the shop, then being asked to leave repeatedly by Pizza Milano management.
After a three-hour deliberation, the jurors sided with Yilmaz.
“A jury of no one’s peers but Mahmut Yilmaz’s delivered a not guilty verdict to a man who brutally beat a Black woman on tape,” activist Nicky Jo Dawson said at the press conference. “This system put Jade Martin on trial at her attacker’s trial.”
Dawson, who spoke with Martin on the morning of Aug. 17, said she wanted to “thank the community for all the support that you have given to her throughout these past six months.”
Martin had initially been charged with defiant trespass and disorderly conduct misdemeanor offenses, but those charges were dropped in March.
Martin was not at the press conference, but the two dozen protesters raised their fists while chanting, “I am Jade Martin,” in front of television cameras.
“Why isn’t a guilty verdict based mainly on evidence? Video evidence at that?” asked Clark during the press conference. “How’s it based on intent? That’s what the judge made the jury base it on, and for me, you can’t know someone’s intent. Intent is a thing of the heart, intent is hidden, it’s not always shown. No one knows your intent.”
Clark added: “DePasquale said to the jury that Mahmut Yilmaz committed no crime. No crime! It’s not a crime anymore to attack and assault someone? Please, please answer that for me.”
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