Seattle officer gives conflicting testimony in fellow officer's trial
A Seattle police officer contradicted herself on the witness stand Wednesday, during the second day of the trial of an off-duty officer accused of kicking a handcuffed man outside a Ballard bar.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A Seattle police officer contradicted herself on the witness stand Wednesday, giving a jury conflicting testimony in the assault trial of an off-duty Seattle police officer accused of kicking a handcuffed man in the head outside a Ballard bar.
In initial testimony about the conduct of Officer Garth Haynes, Officer Shannon Burt explained what she saw on patrol-car video she viewed shortly after the Dec. 12, 2010, incident.
"I think the video is not clear enough to make out anything specific," Burt said.
Burt, one of several officers who responded to a fight call involving Haynes and three other men, said the video showed what she believed were a couple of people on the ground while others were standing or walking around.
In a dramatic moment, Craig Sims, chief of the criminal division in the Seattle City Attorney's Office, asked Burt about a statement she gave to a sergeant about a month after the incident in which she said the video showed three people handcuffed while lying face down.
Burt acknowledged that she told the sergeant she saw Haynes walk left to right and appear to swing his leg at one of the people.
Sims elicited from Burt that she had been able to see more.
"Yes," she said, testifying in the second day of the Municipal Court trial.
Under questioning by Haynes' attorney, Oscar Desper III, Burt said her recollection of what she saw on the video had been refreshed when presented with her statement. She added that she couldn't tell if contact occurred when Haynes swung his leg.
In her testimony, Burt also told jurors that, in accordance with department policy, she reported to her sergeant that one of the three people alleged he had been kicked in the head by Haynes.
Haynes, 36, is charged with fourth-degree misdemeanor assault, stemming from an incident in which he tried to recover a jacket or jackets he believed had been stolen from him and a friend inside the BalMar nightclub.
As Haynes pursued a woman he suspected of theft outside the bar, he and his friend were challenged by the trio, all young men who had gone to the bar. A fight erupted, leading to the handcuffing and arrest of the three after officers responded to the chaotic scene.
Jurors watched the patrol-car video Wednesday, in which Haynes can be seen moving toward one of the men.
Prosecutors say Haynes kicked the man. Desper contends that Haynes stepped on the man after suffering a concussion from a head kick during the brawl, making it questionable whether his client could have formed criminal intent.
Officer Vincent Feuerstein, whose patrol car captured the video, testified Wednesday that when he reviewed the video he saw Haynes push the man's head with his foot.
Feuerstein said he reported what he had seen to a sergeant.
Asked by Sims if he thought Haynes' action was a commonly used tactic, Feuerstein replied: "No, I did not." He also said the act was inappropriate.
Feuerstein's recording system also captured comments of one of the men — not the one who was allegedly kicked — as he was being driven from the scene.
In the recording, the man, who is white, as were his two companions, made what Desper described in his opening statement as an explicit racial epithet in regard to Haynes, who is African American.
But in a serious blow to the defense, Judge Karen Donohue ruled Wednesday that the portion of the recording containing the comment was inadmissible because it was irrelevant to the issues the jury must decide.
Sgt. Michael Boggs, who gathered the information on the incident, testified that when he watched the video, he concluded that Haynes' use of his foot was "inconsistent" with proper use of force and department training, but under cross-examination said he didn't know if the act was purposeful.
Boggs said when Haynes identified himself as a police officer at the scene and called 911 in his effort to track a theft, Haynes officially became an on-duty officer.
He also testified that Haynes, when discussing the incident at the scene, was not tracking and complained of a sore head.
Officer Christopher Christman, the first officer to arrive, told jurors he witnessed Haynes receive a hard kick to the face during the melee.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or email@example.com