Diana Walsh, Chronicle Staff Writer
Copyright 2006 The Chronicle Publishing Co.
All Rights Reserved
It was a police brutality case. But the victim, a drug dealer named Calvin Brooks, didn't have any cuts or bumps, and the only injury a doctor who examined him did find -- a broken rib -- failed to show up on an X-ray.
On Tuesday, a jury said Brooks' lack of injuries and his overall credibility as a witness led them to acquit East Palo Alto police Officers Eddie Rivers and Johnny Taflinger on charges of assault and battery.
"He accused the police of brutally beating him, yet there were no injuries,'' Edward Saam, the jury foreman, said after the verdict.
During the two-week trial, the prosecution and defense teams agreed that Rivers and Taflinger, who were off duty on a night in August 2004, were sitting in a car with friends in front of an East Palo Alto convenience store when Brooks approached the car and offered to sell Rivers drugs.
But the two sides offered vastly differing accounts of what happened next and how Brooks wound up at Stanford Hospital seeking treatment for injuries he said he suffered during a beating.
The prosecution tried to prove that Rivers and Taflinger, along with two other men, were drunk as they chased Brooks down the street and beat and kicked him before leaving him on the ground.
According to the defense, Rivers and Taflinger took off after Brooks in an attempt to make an arrest but never caught up with him.
The night of the incident, Brooks sought treatment for an injury to his rib. A doctor who treated him at Stanford Hospital testified that Brooks suffered a fractured rib, but an X-ray failed to show any breaks.
Defense attorneys argued that Brooks hoped to get rich off his story and concocted it, with the help of another East Palo Alto police officer who had a vendetta against Rivers, so he could file a lawsuit against the police.
Members of the jury said they found the testimony of Brooks and East Palo Alto police Officer David Carson -- who reported the beating and helped the district attorney's office investigate the incident -- not credible.
Both Rivers and Taflinger appeared teary-eyed after the verdict was read and were embraced by several police officers who came to the Redwood City courthouse.
The two officers are on administrative leave and remain the subjects of an internal investigation being conducted by the East Palo Alto Police Department.
An 18-year-old police explorer who also chased Brooks that night is scheduled to be tried separately.
Despite the verdict, Ron Davis, chief of police for East Palo Alto, issued a statement saying the incident had "diminished public trust and confidence" in the department.
April 26, 2006
2 off-duty officers acquitted in Calif. brutality case