Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Officer cleared in force charge


Jury acquits him of assault on teen

By Sharon Coolidge
Enquirer staff writer

[photo]
Former Forest Park Police Officer Todd Halusek hugs his wife, Julie, after a jury found him not guilty Tuesday of assaulting a handcuffed teenage suspect at the juvenile jail.
The Enquirer/GARY LANDERS

A Hamilton County jury on Tuesday acquitted a former Forest Park police officer of assaulting a handcuffed teenage suspect at the juvenile jail.

It took the Hamilton County Municipal Court jury one hour Tuesday to find Todd Halusek not guilty of the misdemeanor assault charge.

"Obviously, I'm happy," Halusek said as he left the courthouse, adding he was a bit surprised by the verdict.

Halusek, 33, was charged in connection with the March 25 arrest of a then 17-year-old suspect, with whom he struggled at the Hamilton County juvenile jail. The struggle was caught on jail surveillance video.

Halusek argued that he used only the force necessary to subdue the teen.

City prosecutors argued Halusek assaulted the teen without provocation.

Halusek was fired in May for violating department policy.

He is fighting to get his job back and declined to comment on his job status Tuesday.

After the jury left, Judge William Mallory said: "I believe it was a fair and just verdict."

The incident started when Halusek arrested the teen on a charge of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

On the way to the police department, the teen repeatedly barraged Halusek and other officers with profanity and derogatory comments, Halusek's lawyer, Merlyn Shiverdecker, told jurors.

Twice, the officer called for extra help to get the teen under control.

Cincinnati city prosecutors, though, told jurors that when Halusek and the teen got to the jail, Halusek - without provocation - put his arms around the teen, lifted him up and slammed him to the ground, pinning him down with his knee.

Shiverdecker said Halusek believed the teen was about to attack him and the officer was attempting to subdue the teen with a pressure-point hold.

Although the incident was recorded on video, the tape was fragmented and jurors were shown 8 percent of it, Shiverdecker said.

"The jury was not willing to rely on the testimony of (the teen)," Shiverdecker said. "Take away his credibility and the credibility of the video, you're left with nothing to base the charge on."

A Hamilton County Juvenile Court magistrate dropped the charge against the teen after Forest Park police failed to send a police officer to testify.

The teen and his mother ran out of the courtroom after the verdict was read. They declined to comment.

E-mail scoolidge@enquirer.com




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