Boyn­ton po­lice sergeant tried in ’14 melee

Su­per­vi­sor ac­cused of fak­ing re­ports in car chase, beat­ing.

The Palm Beach Post - - LOCAL & BUSINESS - By Jane Mus­grave Palm Beach Post Staff Writer jmus­grave@pbpost.com

WEST PALM BEACH — Four days af­ter Boyn­ton Beach Po­lice Of­fi­cer Michael Brown was con­victed of two fed­eral charges for us­ing ex­ces­sive force in an Au­gust 2014 ar­rest, his su­per­vi­sor Mon­day went on trial in U.S. Dis­trict Court on charges that he helped Brown and other cops hide their mis­deeds.

In open­ing state­ments, As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Su­san Os­borne told a jury that Sgt. Philip An­tico helped of­fi­cers fal­sify their re­ports and then lied when FBI agents ques­tioned him about it. He faces one charge each of fal­si­fi­ca­tion of re­ports and ob­struc­tion of jus­tice. Each car­ries a max­i­mum 20-year prison sen­tence.

“He tried to take care of his of­fi­cers,” she said. “He cov­ered up what his of­fi­cers did.”

De­fense at­tor­ney Gregg Ler­man coun­tered that An­tico was sim­ply do­ing his job. The sergeant was on va­ca­tion for seven days af­ter the ar­rest of three peo­ple who were in a car that clipped Of­fi­cer Jef­frey Wil­liams, who was sub­se­quently run over by another of­fi­cer. The car then led nine of­fi­cers on a nearly 20-mile chase on In­ter­state 95 from Boyn­ton to West Palm Beach to Lake Worth.

When An­tico re­turned from va­ca­tion, he looked at the nine of­fi­cers’ re­ports and re­al­ized most had left out de­tails of the ar­rests, Ler­man said. An­tico re­jected re­ports from of­fi­cers who for­got to men­tion that they had kicked and punched car driver By­ron Har­ris and pas­sen­gers Jef­frey Braswell and Ash­ley Hill. Af­ter their lapses were pointed out, they up­dated their re­ports.

“The changes made the re­ports more ac­cu­rate,” Ler­man told jurors. “How is that a crime?”

How­ever, Os­borne said, the changes were made af­ter An­tico learned that the of­fi­cers’ ac­tions had been cap­tured by an in­frared video cam­era in a Palm Beach County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice he­li­copter that had been sum­moned to help the of­fi­cers track the flee­ing car.

“He re­viewed the video and al­lowed his peo­ple to make changes,” Os­borne said. Later, he de­clared that the force his of­fi­cers used was jus­ti­fied.

Show­ing the jury pho­tos taken of Har­ris, Braswell and Hill af­ter the ar­rest, Os­borne ques­tioned whether the in­juries backed up those claims. While Hill’s in­juries aren’t ap­par­ent in her photo, Braswell’s face was bruised and blood­ied and Har­ris’ eyes were swollen shut and his head ban­daged.

“Four of­fi­cers push and shove each other out of the way to get a chance to beat the driver,” she said, re­fer­ring to what the video shows of­fi­cers do­ing af­ter they dragged Har­ris from his car. “They Tase him. They kick him and they beat him.”

Three of the wit­nesses who tes­ti­fied Mon­day — sher­iff ’s he­li­copter pi­lot Sgt. Michael Musto, Boyn­ton Beach Po­lice Chief Jef­frey Katz and Boyn­ton train­ing Sgt. Sedrick Aiken — also tes­ti­fied in the trial that ended Thurs­day with the con­vic­tion of Brown and the ac­quit­tal of former of­fi­cers Ron­ald Ryan and Justin Har­ris.

All three wit­nesses again voiced un­ease about what they had seen on the video. Aiken and Katz said they were also con­cerned that of­fi­cers didn’t di­vulge that they had used force.

Dur­ing this trial, how­ever, key tes­ti­mony in the prose- cu­tion’s case is to come from An­tico him­self. Os­borne said the jury will hear parts of his four-hour in­ter­view with FBI agents, whom Katz asked to in­ves­ti­gate af­ter he said he re­al­ized the video didn’t jibe with the of­fi­cers’ re­ports.

While Os­borne said An­tico lied to agents about his ac­tions, Ler­man in­sisted the sergeant sim­ply had lit­tle mem­ory of what hap­pened when he re­turned from va­ca­tion and re­viewed the re­ports. Lis­ten closely, Ler- man ad­vised jurors. “You’ll hear, ‘I don’t know. I don’t re­mem­ber,’” he said. “His in­tent was not to mis­lead them. He doesn’t have the tools avail­able to re­mem­ber what hap­pened ac­cu­rately.”

The trial is ex­pected to wrap up this week. A dif­fer­ent fed­eral jury de­lib­er­ated for two days last week af­ter a week­long trial be­fore ac­quit­ting Har­ris and Ryan of wrong­do­ing. It con­victed Brown of de­pri­va­tion of rights un­der color of law and use of a firearm dur­ing a crime of vi­o­lence. He faces a max­i­mum 15-year sen­tence in prison.

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