Officers in videotaped arrest plead innocent

Friday, July 19, 2002

LOS ANGELES -- The policeman who was videotaped punching a handcuffed teen-ager pleaded innocent to assault Thursday and his attorney said the incident amounted to a "reasonable use of force" under the circumstances.

Officer Jeremy Morse entered the plea and his partner, Bijan Darvish, pleaded innocent to filing a false police report. Each faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

The men were freed on $25,000 bail each, which was provided by the Inglewood police union, and the next hearing was set for Aug. 13.

Morse's attorney, John Barnett, said the video and a surveillance tape from the gas station that was the site of the confrontation will help clear his client of wrongdoing. The surveillance tape has not been released by authorities.

"It was proper, reasonable use of force," said Barnett, who has alleged that the teen-ager grabbed Morse's testicles while handcuffed.

Donovan Jackson, 16, and his father were stopped July 6 by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies because the car they were in had expired tags. The Inglewood officers arrived to help as Chavis was being questioned.

The video recorded by a bystander across the street shows Morse lifting Jackson to his feet and slamming him onto a squad car. Morse, who has a streak of blood next to his ear, then strikes Jackson on the face with his fist.

The incident is the subject of federal and local investigations.

Morse is charged with felony assault under the color of authority, which applies to law enforcement officials accused of assault. The three-year veteran has been suspended with pay.

Morse said in the police report that Jackson was arrested after he struggled with officers, scratched Morse above his ear and grabbed the officer's testicles after being handcuffed. Morse was in "extreme pain" and punched Jackson to make him let go, according to the report.

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