Million-dollar smile? Man sues sheriff’s dept. for choking him over grinning mug shot

© Harris County Sheriff's Office
Sometimes it’s beneficial to have resting b*tch face. Unfortunately for one Texas man, he wasn’t blessed with “RBF,” as it's also known. Instead, Christopher Johnson smiles on camera, which he says led sheriff’s deputies to choke him while taking his mug shot.

Now the 38-year-old is suing the Harris County Sheriff’s Office over the incident.

Johnson was riding his motorcycle home last July when Deputy G. Quellhorst pulled him over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, and subsequently arrested him, according to court documents.

While being booked at the Harris County jail, Johnson posed for 10 mug shot photos, investigators said. He was smiling.

That didn’t sit well with at least one deputy involved in the process.

"Man, take the picture right," the deputy said several times, according to court documents. "Man, stop smiling!"

Johnson responded: "What are you talking about? This is how I always take pictures."

A second deputy then joined the discussion.

A total of three deputies then placed their hands around Johnson’s neck for at least 30 seconds, choking him, he said in court documents. It was not only difficult for him to smile at that point, he had trouble breathing.

The sheriff’s office doesn’t have a policy against smiling in mug shots, public information officer Ryan Sullivan told the New York Daily News.

“It is not uncommon for detention personnel to assist impaired or uncooperative detainees during the booking photo process,” he said.

Deputies listed Johnson as “uncooperative” in their police report.

Johnson is seeking compensation because he has been physically and emotionally traumatized by the choking. He is also seeking punitive damages.

He’s not the first person to be photographed by Harris County deputies while smiling in a mug shot, however. When former US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay faced money-laundering charges in 2005, he turned himself in to the same department, the Daily News reported.

Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Lisa Martinez Congressman Tom DeLay's computerized booking record outside the Harris County jail October 21, 2005 in Houston. © Richard Carson

DeLay sported a large grin in his mug shot.

Johnson is black; DeLay is white.