Cop guilty in taped beating of handcuffed teenager
BY MATT MCKINNEY Chicago Sun-Times firstname.lastname@example.org July 20, 2012 12:16AM
Chicago Police Sgt. Edward Howard Jr. enters court Thursday for his trial on charges of aggravated battery in July. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Updated: August 21, 2012 6:39AM
A Chicago Police officer was found guilty of aggravated battery and official misconduct Thursday after he was caught on surveillance tape repeatedly striking a 19-year-old man whose hands were cuffed behind his back.
Before making his ruling in the two-day trial, Circuit Judge Clayton Crane said the case was an especially difficult one to rule on, given the poor quality of the surveillance tape and having to rule on the limits of police force.
“That being said, I have a video. There’s no other explanation in the video,” he said.
Sgt. Edward Howard Jr., 49, showed no emotion after the ruling. He faces up to five years in prison at his sentencing hearing scheduled next month.
Howard, a 25-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, slapped Gregory Jefferies across the face multiple times during the 2010 incident, leaving behind cuts, bruises and spattered blood, according to prosecutors.
The incident happened when Howard responded to a disruption at King Gyro, 7904 S. Vincennes. Jefferies, who had been detained by the time Howard arrived, had gotten into an argument with restaurant employees.
Howard testified that he was initially trying to calm the victim down.
“I told him, ‘Stop acting a fool. Show some class. Show some respect,’ ” Howard said.
Prosecutors also called to the stand Officer Jen Harris, a six-year veteran of the CPD, who acknowledged in court that she was unhappy to be testifying.
Howard, who was dressed in a black suit and blue tie, stood up, smiled and waved to Harris when she was asked to identify him in court.
She told prosecutors that Jefferies did not respond when she asked for his name and identification, calling him “rude” and “ignorant.”
In response, Assistant State’s Attorney Ankur Srivastava read in court Chicago Police Department guidelines that stipulate a person is “not obliged to answer” when stopped by the police.
Howard said the victim asked why he had been handcuffed and began swearing. He claimed he then heard Jefferies cough up phlegm, as if preparing to spit on him.
Jefferies testified last week that the incident was unprovoked.
“I gave him an open-hand strike to redirect his face,” Howard said.
Assistant State’s Attorney Lauren Freeman showed surveillance footage in which Howard strikes Jefferies across the face at least three times.
Freeman then presented photographs of Jefferies shortly after the incident, which showed bruises and swelling. She noted that Howard never submitted a report detailing his use of force on Jefferies.
“You could have walked away. Is that correct?” Freeman asked.
“No, ma’am. I’m not paid to retreat. I’m paid to step forward, diffuse the situation and protect the citizens of Chicago, as well as my fellow officers,” said Howard, who has been stripped of police duties pending an internal investigation.
“What kind of example was he setting for those young officers that night— that the answer for disrespect is brute force?” Freeman said in her closing argument. “He was showing them how to use their badges as an excuse to brutalize a young kid.”
A group of police officers, including Harris, sat near the front of the courtroom during closing arguments.