Wednesday, April 16, 2003

In harm's way?

Police horse a magnet for controversy


Cody, a Cincinnati police horse, just can't seem to stay out of harm's way.

Just eight years ago, Cody, a 21-year-old quarterhorse, shared headlines with two UC basketball players.

An officer riding Cody in May 1995 said Bearcat center Art Long punched the 2,000-pound animal four times during a traffic stop in Corryville. The officer also said Long's teammate, forward Danny Fortson, was disorderly.

At trial, defense lawyers said Long was petting, not punching, the horse, and the men were stopped because they'd called the officer a derogatory name.

The jury deliberated less than two hours before acquitting both men.

Animal abuse

Now Cody emerges as a victim again. This time the alleged equine attacker is a 5-foot-8, 135-pound peacenik with political aspirations.

Brian Crum is a frequent protester with no record of violence. The 37-year-old father of two runs a monthly local-access TV show, Refuse and Resist! about nonviolent civil disobedience. He's also considering a run for City Council.

But he'll have to avoid a criminal conviction first. His trial began Friday and continues this week.

Crum is a vegetarian. He volunteers with animal-rescue groups. For about 20 years, he has helped an elderly neighbor care for his horses.

That neighbor has been waiting outside court to testify for his friend.

The charges against Crum stem from an anti-war protest in October. President Bush was at the Cincinnati Museum Center making a nationally televised speech about going to war with Iraq.

Outside, about 2,000 anti-war and pro-Bush demonstrators amassed on the streets, which were closed to traffic. They chanted, blew horns, beat drums and made pests of themselves.

After the speech, police tried clearing the streets for a possible presidential motorcade exit. Turns out, Bush took a different route, but the police didn't know that.

They lined up their eight police horses and used them to push the crowd onto sidewalks. Some didn't go where they were told.

A space between

Two police officers testified that Crum got between two police horses and struck Cody twice on the muzzle.

The arrest report and court complaint say Crum punched Cody. But the officers testified Crum struck the horse with his elbow.

Sgt. Matt Cornacchione demonstrated it to the judge. He held his elbow up and out, and swiftly jabbed it forward, like a hockey player checking an opponent.

It was his third time demonstrating the move. The other two times made it look like Crum had merely nudged the horse.

When Officer Elena Moton, Cody's rider, demonstrated the move, she slammed her elbow into her hand, making a slapping sound.

TV news tape of the protest doesn't show Crum near the horses. But before trial, Crum showed me videotapes taken by fellow protestors that do show him between horses, but he's not hitting them.

At one point, a horse turned its side toward him and he turned his back to it. With his arms down, he let the horse push him toward the sidewalk.

Crum's defense lawyer, Ken Lawson, called several protesters to the stand Wednesday; they didn't see Crum hit the horse. Lawson also got both officers to admit that Cody was unhurt.

If Crum is convicted of this misdemeanor, he faces a fine and up to 90 days in jail. A stiff punishment for being rude to a horse.

E-mail or phone 768-8395

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