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U.S. border officer acquitted of civil-rights charge

Associated Press Writer

BUFFALO, N.Y.- A U.S. border officer was acquitted Thursday of violating a Chinese tourist's civil rights by beating her at the U.S.-Canadian border.

Government prosecutors claimed Homeland Security officer Robert Rhodes used excessive force when he slammed the woman's head into pavement and struck her with his knee after pepper-spraying her at a Niagara Falls inspection station in July 2004.

Rhodes told investigators he believed the woman might have been associated with a drug suspect and ordered her inside, but she took off running.

He had faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Rhodes didn't comment to reporters after the verdict was read.

He was then led away by marshals and brought out a back door of the courthouse as a precaution. His attorney said Rhodes had received death threats.

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