Malaika Fraley, 01/26/12
A Richmond police officer was acquitted Thursday of charges that he assaulted a handcuffed man during a drug-related arrest in 2009.
The jury deliberated for about four hours before finding Dedrick Riley, 42, not guilty of unnecessary assault by an officer and filing a false police report — both felonies — and misdemeanor battery.
“I’m extremely happy for Officer Riley and his family,” Riley’s attorney, Harry Stern, said. “It’s been a very long journey, but he’s been completely vindicated and, frankly, there’s no better feeling.”
Riley was accused of using excessive force during a March 7, 2009, arrest and then lying on his police report in an attempt to cover it up. Both a rookie police officer, Anthony Diaz, and the accuser, Donald Stewart, testified that Riley punched Stewart twice in the head with a closed fist as Stewart was handcuffed and Riley was standing behind him.
The prosecutor argued that Riley pulled Stewart up from a sitting position and used excessive force in reaction to insults by Stewart, whom the officers caught smoking crack cocaine in his car.
The defense argued that Riley delivered two “distraction blows” with an open hand to control the struggling suspect, a minimal amount of force in accordance with police department procedure. Riley did not take the stand.
He was fired after an internal affairs investigation into the allegations involving Stewart. It was the second time in six years Riley was dismissed for allegedly punching people he encountered on the job and lying about it. Both times, he won his job back through arbitration after appealing the city’s decision. He is currently on administrative leave.
Stern said he talked to two jurors after Thursday’s verdict, and they said the panel didn’t believe there was any evidence Riley did anything wrong.
“They were very supportive of Officer Riley,” Stern said.
“They thought he was doing a very good job out there, and one juror talked of having a thorough appreciation of how hard it is to be a cop, particularly in a tough town like Richmond.”