Seattle police officer acquitted of assault


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Seattle police officer acquitted of assault

Posted by John de Leon on March 21, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Seattle police Officer Garth Haynes was found not guilty Wednesday of fourth-degree assault, stemming from an off-duty incident in which he was seen on video striking the head of a prone, handcuffed man with his foot moments after a fight outside a Ballard bar in 2010.
A six-member jury returned its verdict in Seattle Municipal Court following an emotionally tinged trial that began last week. Jurors deliberated for about an hour and a half before reaching the verdict.
The case cast a wider spotlight than the accusation alone, raising issues about race, the role of the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild in defending Haynes and the decision of City Attorney Pete Holmes to bring the charge.
Jurors heard conflicting versions of the fight, which began when Haynes pursued a young woman who he believed had stolen two jackets belonging to him and a friend from inside the BalMar nightclub.
Prosecutors portrayed as the Haynes as the aggressor when three young women came to the defense of the woman and a brawl erupted.
Video at the link:

And here is an earlier article:

SPD officers testified he has no memory of striking handcuffed man

Officer Garth Haynes told jurors a kick to the head during a fight outside a Ballard bar blocked his memory.

In his first public account, Seattle police Officer Garth Haynes testified Tuesday that he has no recollection of striking a prone, handcuffed man with his foot shortly after an off-duty fight outside a Ballard bar.
Haynes told a Seattle Municipal Court jury that a kick to his head during the brawl with three men left him in a state of "blurry" confusion, and that he only realized what had occurred when he watched patrol-car video of the Dec. 12, 2010, incident a day later.
"If I don't remember it, how could it be intentional?" said Haynes, the final witness in the misdemeanor-assault trial that began last week.
Haynes sought to bolster the defense's contention that a concussion he suffered during the fight made it questionable whether he could form the intent to commit a crime.
However, no medical records were introduced by the defense.
But a psychologist, Kenneth Muscatel, paid by the Seattle Police Officers' Guild, testified Tuesday that he believes it is probable Haynes suffered a mild concussion during the fight, which began after Haynes attempted to retrieve two jackets he believed had been stolen from him and a friend in the BalMar nightclub.
Haynes, 36, took the stand on a day of tense testimony, in which Craig Sims, chief of the criminal division in the City Attorney's Office, accused Sgt. Rich O'Neill, president of the guild, of offering to not speak against City Attorney Pete Holmes if Holmes would dismiss the assault case against Haynes.
"That is an outright lie ... " O'Neill said during an appearance on the witness stand in which he called the case a "politically motivated prosecution."
Sims, referring to O'Neill as a "dealmaker," said the exchange took place in a hallway on Nov. 10, 2011, shortly after Holmes and O'Neill attended a meeting to discuss the case with the United Black Clergy in Seattle.
O'Neill told the jury the discussion was not as Sims had described it.
"There was no deal to be made," O'Neill said.
In an interview after his testimony, O'Neill said the discussion had been taken "out of context."
Holmes had been "roasted" in the clergy meeting, O'Neill said, contending that Holmes displayed a lack of knowledge about the case and was caught providing inaccurate information during the meeting.
As they left, O'Neill said, Holmes turned abruptly toward him.
O'Neill said he told Holmes he was not sure how their relationship had become strained, but that Holmes had an "opportunity to push the reset button." O'Neill said he told Holmes he could "do the right thing" in the Haynes case and an assault case against another officer that ultimately was dismissed over proof problems.
Holmes' spokeswoman, Kimberly Mills, said in a statement issued late Tuesday afternoon that as Holmes and an assistant city attorney were leaving the meeting at Mount Zion Baptist Church, O'Neill caught up to them and initiated a conversation.
"There will be no further comment on the conversation until the trial concludes," Mills said.
Jurors are expected to hear closing arguments Wednesday and begin their deliberations.
They have heard testimony that Haynes approached a woman he believed had stolen the jackets, as well as conflicting versions of what happened when three young men came to her defense.
Haynes' attorney, Oscar Desper III, has told jurors that Haynes was attacked, while the man who was allegedly struck by Haynes' foot, Jake Baijot-Clary, earlier testified that Haynes was the aggressor and threw the first punch.
Officers who responded to the fight handcuffed the three men, placing them face down. Prosecutors allege Haynes deliberately kicked Baijot-Clary in the head, while Desper contends his client stepped on the man.
In his testimony Tuesday, Haynes said he felt "very scared" during the confrontation, in which he told jurors he identified himself as a police officer and that several other people surrounded him. He said one of the three men who challenged him reached for Haynes' handgun during the altercation.
He acknowledged to Sims that, on that night, he did not give the gun information to the officer who wrote a report on the incident, despite providing many other details.
O'Neill, who preceded Haynes on the witness stand, repeatedly asserted that Haynes was the actual victim of an assault.
Haynes would have been justified pulling his gun and shooting when someone reached for his gun, O'Neill testified.
Only the sound of an approaching siren kept Haynes from taking that action, O'Neill said, telling the jury that Haynes showed great restraint.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or