Posts Tagged ‘assault’

Jury Hangs in Paul Schene’s Assault Trial

The jury considering the assault charges against Paul Schene announced Friday that they were deadlocked, and a mistrial was declared and the jury released. Paul Schene, was a King County deputy sheriff, and was charged with 4th Degree Assault  for allegedly assaulting Malika Calhoun in a video widely distributed online.  See prior post.  The jury voted 11-1 to convict.

The prosecutor’s office announced that they would be retrying the case.  I know the customary practice in misdemeanor cases in King County is to not retry misdemeanor hung juries.  This case doesn’t seem to be the average misdemeanor.  The strategy of Schene’s criminal defense attorney, Peter Offenbecher, was to break the video down frame by frame and have the accused officer explain every action he took in terms of his police training.  As reported in a Seattle-Times article:

On the witness stand Tuesday, Schene said he used standard techniques taught at the police academy to control Calhoun.  He said he first kicked her to spin her around, grabbed her hair to control her, shoved her against a wall in a failed attempt to handcuff her and forced her to the ground by her hair to apply handcuffs.  He said he punched Calhoun twice in the left shoulder while she was on the ground because she was resisting him and his partner, who was also trying to handcuff her.  … Standing before a TV monitor using a pointer, Schene explained his actions as jurors watched freeze-framed video of the encounter.

You tend to see a frame by frame analysis of the video clips in question when officers are charged with assault based on video.

Police Practices Expert Charles L Duke testified for the defense when the LAPD beat Rodney King

In the prosecution of the LAPD officers who beat Rodney King, the defense used police practices expert Charles Duke.  He did a frame-by-frame analysis of the videotape for the jury to support the contention that reasonable force was used.   He testified that all 56 baton swings were justified in his expert opinion under police protocols.   See related article from 1993.  In the Rodney King case the prosecutor and the defense both used expert witnesses in police procedure.  The prosecutor’s expert Sgt. Mark Konta testified that the first baton blows may have been justified but not the remaining blows.

In the case of Paul Schene’s criminal charges, it doesn’t appear from the news coverage that either the prosecutor or the defense lawyer called any use of force experts to testify.  It would be interesting to see what Charles Duke would say about this video footage of Paul Schene and Malika Calhoun.

When the police beat Rodney King and the footage was broadcast on CNN people were shocked.  I was in college at the time.   I don’t remember officers being caught on tape in such a manner prior to that.  Now, these sort of matters make the news all the time.  A person could spend all day on youtube looking at such incidents.

What is it like for the prosecutors who handle the cases against the cops?  Is there resentment among the other officers that typically work with the prosecutor?  What pressure is put on them?  I may blog about this subject in the future.

What thoughts do have on this case?

(By Steve Graham, Defense Attorney)

Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Schene on Trial for Assault Against Malika Calhoun

Former King County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Schene is pending trial now on one count of Assault Fourth Degree for allegedly assaulting a 15-year-old girl he arrested.  Below is a copy of the jail footage of the incident.

So this was a while ago.  Deputy Paul Schene has since been fired.  The latest is that Paul Schene is now pending trial on one count of Assault Fourth Degree and the trial will resume this Tuesday.  So the system works, I guess.  Schene is facing trial.  I guess what bugs me is that on top of the fact that he roughed up Malika Calhoun, Paul Schene also attempted to charge her with assaulting him.   I had to watch the video a few times before I figured out that Paul Schene justified his take down on Calhoun by the fact that she flicked her shoe at his leg when she took it off.   It is also a little disturbing that the other police officer pretty much just stands there while this is going on.  He doesn’t seem particularly disturbed when he sees what his fellow officer does, although I guess he does seem a little taken aback when the punches start.

Jurors give a lot of deference to police officers, and are slow to disbelieve them when they allege that they have been assaulted.  If it weren’t for the video, Malika Calhoun could be the one on trial for assault, and she would probably be convicted.

See the story in the Seattle-Times.  The police officer Paul Schene is being represented by defense lawyer Peter Offenbecher of Seattle.  The story in the paper explains the defense approach.  It seems like Offenbecher has a pretty big challenge in light of the video tape evidence, but then again everyone thought the LAPD would be convicted of the assault of Rodney King too.

What does everyone else think about this case?  Obviously our system should protect the police as much as we can from assaults, but other than video-taped proof, how can we tell when the police lie or exaggerate?

Carolyn Paulsen-Riat Charged with Assault for Shocking Husband with Table Saw

Carolyn Paulsen-Riat of Olympia, Washington is accused of Assault for allegedly re-wiring her husband’s table saw and causing him to receive an electrical shock.  According to an article in The Olympian, after the man was shocked he confronted her and she “told him that she had tampered with his tools by switching the positive and negative leads… to intentionally harm him.” tablesaw Many people who commented in the online article were upset that the judge decided to release this woman on her own recognizance.  Others in the comment section offered the opinion that if a man had been the defendant, that he would have been held on high bail. Paulsen-Riat has been charged with Assault 3rd Degree and Malicious Mischief for vandalism allegedly done to her husband’s property.   Her husband told police detectives that the table saw carried 220 volts, and the “arc from the plug adapter knocked him into some boxes located along the wall of the work shop….”  According to the article by reporter Jeremy Pawloski, the husband did not need medical attention.

It is interesting that Paulsen-Riat was charged with Assault Third Degree.  Under RCW 9A.36.031 the offense of  “Assault Third Degree” means the defendant is accused of committing the following actions:  “With criminal negligence, causes bodily harm to another person by means of a weapon or other instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm” or “with criminal negligence, causes bodily harm accompanied by substantial pain that extends for a period sufficient to cause considerable suffering.

So do the prosecutors really believe that Paulsen-Riat acted with intent to harm her husband?  The crime she is charged with alleges that she negligently harmed her husband.   Under Washington’s sentencing guidelines, Assault Third Degree is classified as a “non-violent” crime, and for a first-time offender the sentencing range is 1-3 months.  To increase the charges to Assault 2nd Degree under RCW 9A.36.021, the prosecutors would have to prove that the re-wired table saw amounted to a “deadly weapon.”  (In pertinent part Assault Second Degree is defined as when a person “intentionally assaults another and thereby recklessly inflicts substantial bodily harm” or “assaults another with a deadly weapon“.)   For Assault Second Degree, the standard range of incarceration is 3-9 months with a potential weapon enhancement of 18 months.

It sounds as if this table saw would need to be analyzed by an expert.  Despite what you see on TV shows such as C.S.I., usually assault crimes are pretty run-of-the-mill and are not committed by particularly imaginative means.  That is not to say that assaults cannot be unusually cruel or brutal, just that they are committed in the conventional way.  And the conventional way is immediate, hands-on force with a knife or other typical weapon.  There were a few interesting comments about the electrical aspect of this posted by readers:

Crossing electrical leads on 220 cannot produce a shock. Shorting directly to ground can produce an arc


You would not be [electrocuted] by “switching the positive and negative wires” on a 220 volt appliance. There are not “positive and negative” wires on a 220 appliance — both of the main wires in 220 are hot, so reversing them would do nothing at all, and the appliance would still work as intended. Unless she switched one of the two “hot” wires with the ground wire, in which case it could have shocked him briefly, before the circuit breaker would blow.

These comments presumably were made my people who were not electricians.  It would be interesting to hear what an electrician would say about what it would take to harm or even shock someone through this alleged way.  The police allege that Carolyn Paulsen-Riat did admit to tampering with the wires, but it is unclear what her intent was.  At the time, she is alleged to have vandalized some of her husband’s property.  Is it possible that her intent was simply to damage her husband’s table saw?  The facts of this case are so unusual that it is hard to know what to make of it.

As you can see the judges are restrained by certain sentencing guidelines for Assault Third Degree and Assault Second Degree.  In Washington, the legislature came up with these guideline, and minimum and maximums.  It used to be that the judges had broad discretion to sentence within a broad range of 0-5 years or 0-10 years.  Now it is hard for judges to come up with the sentence that they feel is appropriate.  The purpose of having mandatory sentencing is so similar offenders are treated the same.  But how do you compare the facts of this case to “similar” cases?

Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking:
Law Office of Steve Graham
1312 North Monroe Street, #140
Spokane, WA 99201
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