Chris Gordon, William Hennessy
(Courtroom sketches by William Hennessy.)
Today Judge Beverly Woodard dismissed the most serious charge facing two Prince George's County police officers accused of beating a University of Maryland student during a 2010 post-game celebration.
When prosecutors rested their case against Officers Reginald Baker and James Harrison, defense lawyers argued that there was no evidence that student John McKenna was hit in the head by the officer's baton strikes during what they call a riot in College Park.
McKenna was treated for a concussion and cuts after the incident but wasn't admitted to a hospital that night. Three days later he complained of dizziness.
The judge left the courtroom to check the law and ruled there's insufficient proof that the officers intended to inflict serious and permanent injuries, which are the legal requirements of the charge of assault in the first degree.
"I only see strikes from the neck down," Woodard said.
Baker and Harrison still face second-degree assault and police misconduct charges.
They were accused with beating McKenna with batons during the melee the night of March 3, 2010, and the early morning of March 4. The alleged beating was captured on video, which has become a key piece of evidence in the trial.
In court with his helmet, shield and baton, Baker answered his lawyer's questions about that night. "I'm afraid," he said, "but we have a mission."
He said he saw a large man, yelling and running at police horses with fists clenched. "It's a threat," Baker said. "I yell, 'Get down, get down.' I engage him with the shield, push him. I apply short strikes to [his] arm area."
Baker was later suspended from the police force.