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Peoria officers charged in alleged beating
Associated Press

Gerald Suelter

 

Andrew Smith

 

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Published: 3/19/2009 12:02 AM

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PEORIA -- One Peoria police officer allegedly shocked a suspect at least three times with a Taser while another allegedly stomped on the man a minimum of 20 times during an arrest captured by a squad car video camera, prosecutors said Wednesday.

But a defense attorney for Andrew Smith and Gerald Suelter said the officers did not know if Bryce Scott had a weapon when officers pulled him out of his SUV at the end of a chase, the (Peoria) Journal Star reported.

"Until an individual submits to police authority, the officer has to be on the alert for some sort of injury to themselves or anyone else around them," Shane Voyles told the paper. "This man did not comply, contrary to statements you may have heard in court -- we wouldn't be here in court today if he did."

Smith, 29, and Suelter, 39, were each charged Wednesday with four counts of official misconduct and single counts of battery, mob action and aggravated battery in the alleged May 3, 2008, beating.

Both men appeared in court via video feed from the Peoria County Jail, where they have been held since their arrests on Monday. Bond was set at $10,000 apiece.

Scott, 34, was not in court. He is also in the Peoria County Jail on unrelated felony drug charges of possession and delivery of heroin.

Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons declined to say on Wednesday if he would charge any of the other five officers involved in Bryce's arrest.

Assistant State's Attorney Steve Pattelli told the court with dozens of Peoria police officers packed into the spectators' gallery that one officer allegedly punched Bryce at least twice in the face while three officers handcuffed him.

Suelter allegedly "approached and drew his electronic Taser ... Suelter removed the air cartridge from his Taser and began to repeatedly stun the driver," Pattelli said.

By the time Smith arrived, Scott had been pulled from the SUV and was on the pavement with five other officers above him," Pattelli said.

"When Smith arrived, he began to kick and stomp the driver at least 20 times, at one point repositioning himself for leverage," Pattelli said.

Voyles questioned Lyons' motives for filing charges 10 months after the incident.

"Specifically, retaliation and revenge or retribution for the local union's decision to back a different candidate for election to state's attorney," said Voyles, who added that prosecutors have known about the squad car video since May.

Lyons denied the charges were motivated by politics and said he first saw the recording in January.

"If politics means two or more police officers beat people up and are brought to justice then I'm all for politics, but make no mistake about it, I'm against brutality and that's not going to happen without being accounted for," Lyons told the Journal Star.

Officers charged with a felony are put on administrative leave without pay. If convicted, Smith and Suelter face probation up to as many as five years in prison.

A civil lawsuit is pending that names Smith, Suelter and other officers, along with the city.