After 16 hours of deliberation, a jury acquitted a Delaware cop on Tuesday for kicking a suspect full force in the head, causing his jaw to shatter.
Dover police officer Thomas Webster IV was acquitted of felony assault and misdemeanor assault charges after deliberations spanned three days.
However, it was only last week that the city of Dover agreed to pay $15,000 in a settlement to Lateef Dickerson, who had been in a store where a fight broke out, which is why the cops were called, but says he was not involved in the fight.
But that did not stop Webster from pulling up to him, ordering him down on his knees and kicking him in the face as he was getting down.
He said he was aiming for the suspect’s upper body because – like most cops – he feared for his life (even Dickerson was already down on the ground when he got kicked) and the safety of others around him.
Allegedly, the officers involved in this incident were told that Dickerson had a firearm on him and would not listen when told to get on the ground.
But prosecutors argued Webster was reckless, abused his authority and used excessive force.
Originally, prosecutors had offered Webster to plead guilty to third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, and as a compromise he would have to give up his certification and never work in law enforcement again.
This would have avoided Webster from getting a felony conviction, which would have meant eight years in prison, and would have only resulted in probation.
On Friday, James Liguori, the defense attorney in the case told jurors in his closing argument that Webster only had a few seconds to react since Dickerson had managed to escape from another officer and ignored commands from Webster and fellow officer Christopher Hermance to get and stay on the ground.
But there is also no indication from the video or any of the reports that Dickerson did escape from another officer.
“These split-second decisions and judgments … not only were they justifiable, they were, in fact, necessary,” Liguori said.
Prosecutors disagreed arguing Webster knew exactly what he was doing when he kicked Dickerson in the head and broke his jaw.
“Whether it was a mistake, whether it was intentional, it was reckless behavior,” prosecutor Danielle Brennan told jurors, adding that the reports of the incident were “inconsistent and incorrect” and failed to mention his contention at trial that his intentions were not to kick Dickerson in the head.