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Fort Worth neighbor in viral arrest video goes to court

A key figure in the Jacqueline Craig story is in a Fort Worth courtroom.

A key figure in the Jacqueline Craig story was in a Fort Worth courtroom Tuesday. The trial got underway this afternoon in a municipal courtroom in downtown Fort Worth.

Craig's neighbor, Itamar Vardi, faces a misdemeanor charge of assault by offensive contact, stemming from the December 2016 incident that launched a national conversation about police conduct.

Vardi allegedly choked the young son of Jacqueline Craig after accusing him of littering. Craig then called police and was later arrested herself in a viral incident captured on Facebook and police body cam.

Two of Craig's young children were called to testify by the prosecution, a 12-year-old girl who witnessed the incident and the 9-year-old who was directly involved.

Both children testified that they were walking home from school and Vardi, was painting his fence. They claim the boy had a bag of raisins that he threw to his brother, who was also walking home. They said the brother caught the bag, but some raisins fell to the sidewalk.

That, they said, is when Vardi got involved.

"He said, 'Pick them up. Pick them up now,'" recalled the girl.

She claimed her brother paused, and then Vardi grabbed him by the back of the neck, forcing him to pick up the raisins on the ground.

The boy said the incident made him mad because, "I'm not his kid. He can't put his hands on me."

Both children were questioned whether they had spoken to anyone about what they would say in court, and both said they did not.

Craig was also in the courtroom with her children, but she did not testify.

Later in the afternoon, prosecutors called Detective Benjamin Jones who testified that Vardi stated he put a hand on the shoulder of the 9-year-old boy. Vardi had indicated to police that trash was thrown on the ground.

Jones said that the incident met the requirements for a misdemeanor charge, but he was also questioned about why the department waited to issue Vardi a citation until more than a month after the incident.

When asked whether if the citation was issued because of media attention and controversy surrounding the Craig case, Jones said he could not answer.

Testimony will continue Wednesday, and the trial may extend into Thursday.

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