Of­fi­cer found not guilty of as­sault

Bat­ti­paglia had been ac­cused of club­bing a man on Christ­mas Eve

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Colin Campbell cm­camp­bell@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/cm­camp­bell6

A city po­lice of­fi­cer was ac­quit­ted by a judge Thurs­day of first-de­gree as­sault in a Christ­mas Eve in­ci­dent in North­east Bal­ti­more.

Of­fi­cer Kevin Bat­ti­paglia had been ac­cused of club­bing a 21-year-old man, Dar­rian Carr, with his ba­ton af­ter a brief chase in a park­ing lot at Be­lair Road and Bren­dan Av­enue in North­east Bal­ti­more about 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 24. The of­fi­cer had been sus­pended with­out pay from the Po­lice Depart­ment.

But the of­fi­cer’s body cam­era did not cap­ture the mo­ment of the ba­ton’s im­pact; a friend of Carr’s who was also at the scene tes­ti­fied that his view was ob­structed; and a train­ing of­fi­cer called as a state’s wit­ness said he could not tell whether the strike was in­ten­tional or ac­ci­den­tal.

Cir­cuit Judge Dana M. Mid­dle­ton, who presided over the three-day bench trial, is­sued the not-guilty ver­dict Thurs­day.

“The judge in this case was ex­traor­di­nari- ly fair, thor­oughly re­viewed all the ev­i­dence and found — ex­actly as we had al­ways con­tended — that this was noth­ing more than an ac­ci­dent,” said Michael Bel­sky, Bat­ti­paglia’s lead de­fense at­tor­ney. “We only wish the state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice could have re­viewed it in the same light six months ago.”

A spokes­woman for Bal­ti­more State’s At­tor­ney Mar­i­lyn Mosby ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment in the de­ci­sion.

“Our of­fice strongly be­lieved that the ev­i­dence pre­sented in court, in­clud­ing body worn cam­era footage, was enough to con­vict,” said the spokes­woman, Melba Saun­ders, in a state­ment. “How­ever, we stand com­mit­ted to ap­ply­ing jus­tice fairly and equally no mat­ter one’s race, sex, re­li­gion, or oc­cu­pa­tion."

The city’s po­lice union blasted Mosby in a state­ment posted on Twit­ter.

“Is it pos­si­ble that Mrs. Mosby has again wasted tax­payer money in pur­suit of her all-con­sum­ing ob­ses­sion with the per­se­cu­tion of our mem­bers?” the state­ment read. “We be­lieve she has and that this Of­fi­cer not only de­serves to be swiftly re­in­stated and re­im­bursed, but also given a sin­cere apol­ogy from Mrs. Mosby and her staff.”

Pros­e­cu­tors’ and de­fense at­tor­neys’ ar­gu­ments in the trial each fo­cused heavily on the of­fi­cer’s body cam­era footage, which showed him chas­ing Carr across a busy Be­lair Road in­ter­sec­tion and into the park­ing lot of a Dol­lar Tree.

In the footage, Carr can be seen run­ning, then quickly chang­ing di­rec­tion as he is cut off by a car, and col­lid­ing with Bat­ti­paglia, who was run­ning with his ba­ton in his right hand, at the park­ing lot’s Bren­dan Av­enue en­trance. Bat­ti­paglia’s at­tor­neys ar­gued that the tip of the of­fi­cer’s ba­ton struck Carr ac­ci­den­tally while the two were run­ning full speed — an ar­gu­ment they bol­stered with tes­ti­mony from Dr. Jonathan L. Ar­den, a foren­sic pathol­o­gist who told the court that Carr’s in­jury was smaller than it would have been if Bat­ti­paglia had struck him with the broad side of the ba­ton.

Tyquan Spriggs, 23, Carr’s friend who also ran from Bat­ti­paglia af­ter see­ing him hop out of his pa­trol car with the ba­ton, said the of­fi­cer had been red-faced and ag­gres­sive. Spriggs ran down Bren­dan Av­enue, and tes­ti­fied that while he saw Bat­ti­paglia swing the ba­ton, a car rolled past and blocked his vi­sion of the im­pact. Bel­sky ar­gued that if the of­fi­cer had swung the ba­ton the way Spriggs de­scribed, his body cam­era would have ro­tated with his torso.

In a blow to the pros­e­cu­tion, Bal­ti­more Bat­ti­paglia po­lice in­struc­tor Khamla Souka­seum, who was called as a state’s wit­ness, tes­ti­fied that he could not tell from Bat­ti­paglia’s body cam­era footage whether the of­fi­cer in­ten­tion­ally or ac­ci­den­tally struck Carr, Bel­sky said.

Two other of­fi­cers were called to tes­tify in the trial: Of­fi­cer Rhys Dacuy­cuy, who first re­sponded to the scene, and De­tec­tive Karl Page, a mem­ber of the Spe­cial In­ci­dent Re­sponse Team, the unit that in­ves­ti­gates all po­lice shoot­ings and other use-of-forcere­lated in­ci­dents.

Carr’s at­tor­ney, La­toya Fran­cis-Wil­liams, said she was “highly, highly, highly dis­ap­pointed” with the ver­dict — and blamed city pros­e­cu­tors for the out­come.

“Is the state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice pros­e­cut­ing these cases as vig­or­ously as they would have if the of­fi­cer were a reg­u­lar civil­ian?” she asked. “I think the ob­vi­ous an­swer is no. Why didn’t the state put for­ward more ev­i­dence? … They didn’t bring it home and con­nect the dots for the court.”

Fran­cis-Wil­liams said the pros­e­cu­tors, Alexan­der Ro­driguez and Stacy Llewellyn, did not em­pha­size enough the sever­ity of his in­juries and the sig­nif­i­cance of his sub­se­quent surg­eries.

Carr, she said, is “not do­ing well at all.”

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