By Jennifer Peltz
NEW YORK — A police officer seen on videotape repeatedly hitting an unarmed, handcuffed Iraq war veteran with a baton -- and accused of lying to cover it up -- was acquitted Monday of all charges. Officer David London sobbed after jurors delivered the verdict, while relatives of the Army veteran he hit bolted from the courtroom enraged.
"I'd like to thank God and my family," the soft-spoken London, 45, said after he left the Manhattan courtroom and hugged supporters with tears rolling down his cheeks. He had said he used necessary force to subdue Walter Harvin and never meant to misrepresent what happened during their July 2008 clash.
London's trial was the second in as many months that offered video to rebut a police officer's account of a confrontation with a citizen. In both cases, defense lawyers suggested the videos didn't provide a full view of the provocation and danger the officers faced.
Harvin's family -- his own whereabouts are unknown -- blasted London's acquittal on assault and false-statement charges as police brutality and misconduct going unchecked.
"They can do whatever they want and walk away," said Harvin's mother, Cora Page. She said her son had returned from Iraq in about 2005, suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome that deepened after his encounter with London.
"He served this country, and this is the justice he gets?" she asked.
Jurors declined to comment.
London still faces police department disciplinary charges stemming from the incident, and he remains restricted to administrative duties until they are resolved, police said.
London, an officer for 16 years, confronted Harvin as the Army veteran walked into his mother's Manhattan apartment building without a key and declined to provide identification, the officer said.
Harvin shoved London, and the officer responded with a blast of pepper spray and a series of strikes from his baton, according to his testimony and silent security-camera video from the building's lobby.
After the first few hits knocked Harvin down, London continued hitting him as he covered his face and was, after struggling, handcuffed, the video shows. It shows Harvin moving his legs toward the officer at points.
London said Harvin kicked him and shouted threats that the officer said he feared would draw a hostile crowd.
"He was aggressive and violent," London testified. "I was trying to get him to comply."
But prosecutors said London went too far, and then compounded his misconduct with lies. London arrested Harvin and signed court paperwork saying Harvin punched him, which the video contradicts. London testified that he didn't read the papers carefully.
"Officer London beat on Walter Harvin far more than was necessary, and to then justify that beating, he made up facts," Assistant District Attorney David Drucker told jurors Friday.
Harvin was hit nearly 20 times; he emerged with cuts and bruises. London was treated at a hospital for a back injury and released.
Assault and other charges against Harvin were dismissed.
In another New York police-conduct case that focused on videotape, former NYPD rookie Patrick Pogan was convicted in April of lying about a Times Square confrontation that sent a pro-bicycling activist hurtling off his bike, as seen by millions of YouTube viewers. Pogan was acquitted of assault and harassment charges, however.
Pogan faces up to four years in prison at his sentencing, set for July 14.
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