Austrian cop mistakes American teacher for African drug dealer
The undercover police officer pleaded not guilty to assaulting the US citizen
By Rafael Burbisz
VIENNA — An Austrian undercover police officer pleaded not guilty Thursday to assaulting an American teacher after mistaking him for an African drug dealer at a subway station in Vienna.
The officer's lawyer, Bernd Gahler, acknowledged, however, that the officer had made mistakes and used force during the Feb. 11, 2009, incident in which Mike Brennan, a former football player from Jacksonville, Florida, suffered injuries to his back, head, neck, hand and wrist. Brennan now works at a school for the children of expatriates in Vienna, the Austrian capital.
The Vienna police department has said the officer who was charged _ and another who was not charged _ mistook Brennan for a drug dealer of "almost identical" appearance and acknowledged that the officers used force and injured him. They said they made several attempts to contact Brennan to express their regret.
Brennan, 36, says he never got a satisfactory apology and claims the accused officer didn't identify himself before knocking him down and punching him.
The officer, who cannot be named under Austrian law, said he never hit Brennan.
"The fall was hard, I stand by that," he told the court. But "I didn't once use my fist."
In his comments Thursday, Brennan accused the officer of tackling him without warning as he stepped off the subway.
"I was attacked immediately," said Brennan, who played arena football in Nebraska before joining the Austrian professional league. He also did stints with other football teams in Europe.
Brennan said it took the officer 10 minutes to flash his badge and that he did so only after his girlfriend spoke to him.
The police officer countered that his badge was always visible and that he shouted "Police! Police!" before touching Brennan.
Three witnesses _ two women and a man _ testified they saw Brennan lying on the platform. One witness, whose name could not be verified, said that when Brennan asked to contact the U.S. Embassy, the police officer who has not been charged told him to "shut up." That officer, another witness, denied having said that.
Thursday's court proceedings, which were adjourned until Friday, followed a previous trial in June, which ended with the judge saying the matter was too serious to be handled by her court.
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If convicted, the police officer faces up to three years in prison.