A federal criminal prosecution of RLS partner Harry Stern’s police officer client has resulted in a mistrial, with the jury voting 9-3 in favor of acquittal.
The client, Paul Van Dalen, was a Fresno police officer charged by the United States Attorney with assault under color of authority and obstruction of justice. The case resulted from an October 2005 arrest of a domestic violence suspect who evaded pursuing officers by dragging a police K9 over a six-foot barbed wire fence.
The civil rights division of the Department of Justice charged Officer Van Dalen and three of his colleagues some 5 years after their encounter with the suspect. In essence, the government’s case alleged that Van Dalen and other officers used excessive force to subdue and arrest the alleged victim (who was unavailable for trial), whom the government claimed could not comprehend the English language, and was not purposefully ignoring the officers’ verbal commands. In response, the defense called the alleged victim’s former girlfriend, who testified that he both spoke and understood English.
The government also claimed reports written by Van Dalen and other defendant officers were the result of collaboration and collusion, and did not accurately report the arrest.
At the conclusion of the case, the jury took little time to announce that it was deadlocked 9-3 in favor of acquitting Van Dalen and the other three defendants.
The Rains Lucia Stern trial team consisted of partner Harry Stern, research attorney Dylan Shaffer, and investigator Robert McFarlane. Sean McCann testified as a use of force expert. The successful defense of Officer Paul Van Dalen is another example of our firm’s position as the state wide leader in complex trial work on behalf of peace officers and other high-profile people.