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Ex-Ind. chief acquitted on all but one charge

The Associated Press

HAMMOND, Ind. — A former Gary police chief was acquitted Tuesday on five of six counts from a raid that prosecutors say he orchestrated after a burglary at his home. A deputy chief and sergeant were acquitted of all charges in the raid.

The federal jury convicted Thomas Houston of violating the civil rights of a man whom he admitted he kicked during the raid. He was cleared of punching a woman and carrying out an illegal search and wrongful arrests.

Houston, then-Deputy Chief Thomas Branson and Sgt. Thomas Decanter were indicted in March on charges of violating the civil rights of four people Houston suspected of breaking into his home and stealing his department-issued gun.

Houston became teary-eyed while testifying last week as he recalled how worried he was that the stolen .40-caliber Beretta might be in the hands of criminals. Houston testified that he kicked Victor Adams Jr. in the leg after being kicked first.

Defense attorney Fred Work said Houston might appeal the guilty verdict. Houston was a member of the Gary police force for 42 years, retiring a week after he was indicted.

Branson, who is now a detective, and Decanter both said they planned to report for duty Wednesday.

Judge James T. Moody did not immediately set a sentencing date for Houston.

Prosecutors said Houston had returned home in June 2007 to find his house ransacked and his gun missing. He and the others were accused of going to a Gary home that same day and arresting four people without probable cause. None of the four was charged in the burglary.

Branson was acquitted of performing an illegal search, lying to federal investigators and watching as Decanter beat a suspect. Decanter was acquitted of the beating allegation.

Defense attorneys attacked the credibility of the four people who claimed they were beaten, pointing to a lawsuit they had filed against the city seeking about $28 million in damages.

"To these people, this is the biggest score of all," Work said. "This is what this case is all about. It's about a score."

Federal prosecutor Betsy Biffl called the three officers "playground bullies" who "threw innocent people into jail and beat them up first. They thought they were above the law."

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