PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – A Millvale Police officer charged with violating a suspect’s civil rights by repeatedly zapping him with a stun gun, even after he was handcuffed, has been found guilty.
The jury got the case at 8:50 a.m., and by 1 p.m., the judge announced they had a verdict: guilty on the charge of deprivation of rights under color of law.READ MORE: Veterans Searching For Jobs In Pennsylvania Face Challenges
Nicole Murphy left the courthouse out of the view of reporters.
The guilty verdict shocked both the defense attorney and the defendant.
“She was numb,” said defense attorney Robert Stewart. “She was numb. We had a very good feeling after Monday. Yesterday, we still were optimistic, but it was the kind of thing where I didn’t see, I just didn’t see this one coming.”
Stewart thought he had successfully attacked the credibility of Murphy’s then-partner Casey Bonincontro, who testified he saw no reason for her to use such force.
The defense called him a bump-on-a-log who did little that night but take a video with his cell phone.
But the jury was apparently convinced that while Thomas Smith became compliant after the Taser was used, it was not justified.
The prosecutor argued had she used a baseball bat, he would have become compliant, but that wouldn’t have justified that use of force.READ MORE: Police: Online Argument Leads To Father's Day Shootout In Westmoreland County
“Certainly, the first officer was impeached many times on his testimony,” says Stewart. “And so I have to believe they disregarded that, but then looking at the rest of it, it gets back to he was in handcuffs, he was tased three times and I don’t think the jury got past that.”
Murphy faces sentencing on March 13, 2015, at 10 a.m.
The maximum penalty is 10 years in prison, but her lawyer says she’s likely to receive a much more lenient sentence.
“The guidelines, depending on what the court finds, could be between two and three years,” said Stewart. “If I had to guess, it’s going to be very possible for a 36-month sentence.”
United States Attorney David J. Hickton released a statement following the verdict. It reads in part: “Law enforcement officers are sworn to uphold and obey the law. Nicole Murphy did neither when she used a dangerous weapon to subdue a handcuffed defendant, thereby violating his civil rights.”
Murphy doesn’t dispute she used the stun gun on Smith after his arrest for public drunkenness in September 2012. The 30-year-old officer contends she was justified in using it because she was trying to stop Smith from banging his head on a desk and office cubicle.
The FBI began investigating after someone leaked a 52-second cellphone video of the incident to Pittsburgh-area media outlets in early 2013.
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