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03-18-09, 08:19 PM #1
Johnson: Cop walks as child wronged
Someone stomped that boy nearly half to death.
And that is the thing with last week's trial of Charles Porter, which triggered an event that should not pass from our consciousness without noting its very, very rare occurrence.
Charles Porter is a 13-year veteran of the Denver Police Department who one night last spring, on a gang- unit detail, believed he'd seen Juan Vasquez, a 16-year-old boy, swigging an alcoholic beverage in northwest Denver. When he flipped on his flashing lights, the boy ran.
The chase was a short one. In the end, the boy lay prone and handcuffed on the ground with several of his ribs smashed, his kidneys half- pulverized and his liver lacerated.
The cops, a month later, came for one of their own and arrested Porter on a felony charge of second-degree assault. He went to trial a little more than a week ago. A jury acquitted him Thursday.
Of course it did.
I would have fallen straight over had the verdict gone the other way.
Juries simply do not convict cops for the things they do on the streets, even when the misconduct is captured on videotape.
I long ago gave up fretting about the rightness or wrongness of this. It just is.
The jurors in this case — and God bless them for their service — I believe felt they were sticking up for law and order in this town when they came back with their verdict. Then, too, maybe they just figured the guy didn't do it.
Here is why I'm going with the former: In Porter's case, two of his fellow officers, at least one junior to him, did that very, very rare thing, something I have never witnessed in all my years covering trials, including a few involving cops:
They testified against — yes, ratted out — their brother officer.
These two officers, both of whom were at the scene, looked the jurors in the eyes and swore under oath that Porter jumped up and down on the boy's back, turning his insides to virtual mush.
"Officer Porter grabs hold of the fence with both hands," Officer Luis Rivera, who was partnered with Porter that night, testified. "He jumps up, raises his knees and lands with both feet on the kid's back."
He then demonstrated the jumping to the jury, the loud thud of each jump reverberating through the courtroom.
Back in their squad car, Rivera said he questioned Porter as to why he jumped on the kid. "Officer Porter said, 'I don't know why I do that. It's just something I do lately. I guess I just like the way they sound.' "
A police officer testifies against you or me in such a manner, it is time to get our personal affairs in order ahead of reporting to jail.
"There were other scenarios we could see that would have resulted in the same sort of injuries to the juvenile that would not necessarily have involved Officer Porter," the jury foreman told The Post after the verdict.
It turns out the jury was vastly more interested in inconsistencies in the 16-year-old's testimony than the consistency of the testimony of the two police-officer witnesses.
"When you look at how (the boy) testified versus other statements he made, there were far more inconsistencies in his testimony," the foreman continued. "He had mentioned that it was more than one officer that committed the abuse. He was the only one who said that in any of the testimony."
Of course, blame the kid. How dare he not remember perfectly every detail from those moments when he was getting his guts stomped flat.
So they walked Charles Porter.
Yet someone stomped that boy nearly half to death.
In Denver more and more, such questions are always left just to hang, along with the stench of such asinine behavior, the smell of which now clings to every good cop on the beat.
No one is ever held accountable — well, if you don't count the taxpayers of the city and county of Denver, who in recent years have paid out multiple millions of dollars for bad, stupid and near-criminal police behavior.
Juan Vasquez and his family, you may know, in October got nearly $1 million richer from taxpayer money, courtesy of the Denver Police Department.
Here's to sticking up for law and order.
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