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Hearing Ahead For Former Milwaukee Officer Charged In Death Of Joel Acevedo, Protests Continue

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Maayan Silver
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Dozens of people gathered for a 'lit drop' to distribute flyers with a version of the events that led to the death of Joel Acevedo.

There will be a hearing Monday in the homicide case against former Milwaukee Police Officer Michael Mattioli. Mattioli is charged with reckless homicide in the death of Joel Acevedo — who he allegedly choked to death after the two were partying with others at Mattioli’s house. Mattioli has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On Saturday, dozens of activists met up at Kosciuszko Park on Milwaukee’s south side, ahead of a citywide canvass and march. They chanted, “Say his name Joel Acevedo” and held up signs.

Afterwards, they distributed flyers that described — in English and in Spanish — a version of the events that led to Acevedo’s death. The flyers allege that Christopher Peters and Andrew Janowski, who were at the party, held down Acevedo's body while Mattioli choked him to death and ask for the two men to be charged as well. 

Mariah Smith is part of the People’s Revolution, a social justice group that organized the effort.

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Credit Maayan Silver
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Kamila Ahmed (L) and Mariah Smith (R) were out to demand justice for Joel Acevedo.

“Imagine a relative of yours being choked for 11 minutes and 22 seconds and then just saying ‘Let me go home,’ begging to go home,” Smith says. “And they just never make it home. So just think about that. That's what resonate with everybody's mind and everyone's spirit.”

Smith says protesters want to let the Acevedo family know that the community stands up for justice and to bring awareness to his case.

Attorneys for Mattioli say they’ll argue self-defense and have requested to try the case in a different county, in what’s called a “change of venue.”

Wisconsin criminal defense attorney Tony Cotton says change of venue motions are typically filed in higher profile cases which have had media attention.

“You have to make a showing that the publicity has so permeated the community, that it would be impossible or nearly impossible to find a group of jurors who are impartial,” he says.

In his 16 years practicing law, Cotton is not aware of any venue motion being successful in Milwaukee County.

“I represented the young man who was accused of attacking the mayor back after state fair in 2007, 2008,” says Cotton. “An incredibly high profile case involving the mayor of the city. We lost that venue motion. There have been certainly other high profile cases that defense attorneys have handled, and it's a very, very difficult hill to climb.”

Milwaukee is the state’s largest county, and Cotton says it’s tough to convince a judge it’s not possible to find people who aren’t privy to current events. He also says procedures to winnow out people who are unfair are already baked into jury selection processes. 

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