Hector Castro and Levi Pulkkinen
A King County sheriff's deputy accused
of assaulting a handcuffed woman was acquitted on all counts against
him Tuesday by a federal jury in Seattle.
Deputy Brian J.
Bonnar, 42, was charged in U.S. District Court with criminal
deprivation of civil rights and four counts of making false
declarations to a grand jury, charges that could have carried a 15-year
prison sentence. Instead, jurors found Bonnar not guilty on all counts
after little more than a day of deliberation.
"Brian Bonnar is a
very dedicated law enforcement officer, and it was a very dangerous
situation," said attorney David Allen, who represented Bonnar in the
proceeding. "He's very pleased that he was acquitted, and he's looking
forward to getting back with the Sheriff's Office."
Oct. 22, 2005, episode, Irene Damon, 41, and two passengers led
deputies on a high-speed chase through Burien and White Center. Damon,
allegedly high on crack cocaine, rammed two patrol cars before crashing
into a parked vehicle in White Center.
Bonnar used a Taser stun
gun on Damon to get her out of the car. She then wrestled on the ground
with Bonnar and three other deputies before they were able to handcuff
Bonnar's co-workers, including other deputies, testified
that after Damon calmed down, Bonnar looked around and twice dropped
his knee on Damon's face, near her eye. One deputy testified that
Bonnar lifted Damon from the ground by grabbing her hair, and later
slammed her face against the patrol car.
In a statement issued
Tuesday, Sheriff Sue Rahr stood by the officers who came forward to
testify against him, and her office's initial decision to issue Bonnar
a 20-day suspension.
"Excessive force is not accepted or
tolerated in the Sheriff's Office," Rahr said in the statement. "I
support our deputies who came forward to report this misconduct. The
deputies who came forward did the right thing and will continue to have
my complete support."
Rahr added that, in her view, the evidence
against Bonnar was not strong enough to support a criminal conviction
or termination from the department.
Speaking following the
jury's verdict, Judge Thomas Zilly was vocal in his criticism of
Bonnar's alleged actions, according to a U.S. Justice Department
spokeswoman who attended the verdict.
"What happened here was
not what we expect of our law enforcement officers," Zilly said. "There
was a substantial amount of evidence that (Bonnar) did not meet the
standard for law enforcement in our community."
to the judge's statements, which were made while the jury was still in
the courtroom, the Justice Department spokeswoman said.
The verdict seemed to puzzle the Sheriff's Office, since the witnesses against Bonnar included other deputies.
certainly respect the jury's verdict, but it raises questions," said
Sgt. John Urquhart, a department spokesman. "One of the questions it
raises is, Did the jury not believe these four officers who came
forward on their own and testified truthfully? Or is the message from
the jury that this kind of conduct is OK?"
Allen disputed claims made by prosecutors that Bonnar had injured Damon.
Tuesday, Allen said there was no physical evidence that Bonnar had
harmed the woman. At trial, a doctor who reviewed photos and the
medical file of Damon after her arrest said she did not show injuries
he would expect from the type of assault described.
Bonnar was a
deputy with the King County Sheriff's Office for two years at the time
of the episode. Though his commander requested that he be fired, Bonnar
ultimately received a 20-day suspension, which he has yet to serve, as
it is under appeal.
"It's that type of behavior we're not accepting and will not be tolerated by anyone in the Sheriff's Office," Urquhart said.
was initially placed on desk duty, but was put on paid leave in June
2008 after charges were filed against him, Urquhart said.
With the criminal case completed, an arbitration hearing will be scheduled.
Like Rahr, Urquhart had only praise for the deputies who testified in court regarding Bonnar's actions.
"They did the right thing," Urquhart said.
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