Cop acquitted in video body-slam case

May 27, 2009 5:57:02 PM PDT
A policeman who was caught on video apparently body-slamming a woman to a restaurant's tile floor was acquitted Wednesday of violating her civil rights. Jurors in federal court in White Plains found Yonkers Officer Wayne Simoes, 39, not guilty after a five-day trial and five hours of deliberations.

Several times during the trial, they were shown a recording from a restaurant surveillance camera which seemed to show the officer lifting Irma Marquez, 44, by her waist and throwing her face-first to the floor. The takedown knocked her unconscious and broke her jaw.

Simoes seemed stunned when the verdict was read. He expelled his breath loudly several times, then wiped his eyes with a tissue and hugged his lawyers and his wife. Several of the two dozen off-duty Yonkers officers in the gallery clapped each other on their backs.

The officers then assembled just outside the courtroom and applauded Simoes, the jurors and defense lawyer Andrew Quinn as they walked out.

Simoes said outside that he felt bad for Marquez. He thanked his lawyers, his wife, his colleagues and everyone who "saw through all the garbage."

Quinn said that by showing the jurors stills from the video, he was able to prove that the takedown of Marquez was an accident and that Simoes had "no intent or desire to hurt Ms. Marquez or violate her civil rights."

Quinn had claimed during the trial that the soundless, dimly lit video was misleading because it caught only 15 frames per second.

He said Simoes was simply trying to keep Marquez from interfering with medical technicians who were treating her niece after a bar fight.

He said Marquez was "stumbling drunk."

Marquez, of Yonkers, was arrested at the scene but acquitted of obstruction charges. She is suing the city Police Department for $11 million.

Prosecutor Anna Skotko had told the jurors, "Trust your eyes." And an FBI expert said the video's quality was good enough to show what happened.

In addition, a fellow officer, John Liberatore, who was at the scene on March 3, 2007, said he saw Simoes lift Marquez off the floor from behind and throw her down. The witness said he then turned to his partner and, using an expletive, asked "What the ... just happened here?"

The police captain at the scene, Edward Geiss, testified that at the time, he felt Simoes' action "probably involved excessive force." On the other hand, he said he didn't think Simoes intended to hurt Marquez "the way he did."

Simoes was acquitted of violating Marquez's constitutional protection from excessive police force. Had he been convicted, he could have faced up to 10 years in prison.

The Justice Department has been investigating charges of brutality against the Yonkers force since long before the body-slam incident.