By SCOTT GUTIERREZ
Jurors are expected to begin deliberating Wednesday whether a King County sheriff's deputy violated a woman's civil rights by allegedly striking her several times while she was handcuffed.
Brian Bonnar, 42, is charged in U.S. District Court with depriving Irene Damon of her civil rights by using excessive force against her. On Oct. 22, 2005, Damon, a known crack addict, led police on a high-speed chase through Burien and White Center and then, after she stopped, fought with deputies trying to arrest her. Damon had rammed two patrol cars.
One of her passengers, Alvin Wafer, was wanted on a warrant for selling crack.
"Everyone, including those who commit crimes, have rights under the Constitution that should be protected," Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Harris said during his closing argument Tuesday.
Bonnar is accused of kneeing Damon in the head at least twice and slamming her head against a patrol car after she'd been handcuffed for resisting arrest. Four deputies testified during the weeklong trial that they saw Bonnar strike Damon, although with variations in their accounts. Many of the witnesses had also struggled with Damon on the ground.
Bonnar, whose trial began last Tuesday before Judge Thomas Zilly, also is charged with making false declarations to a grand jury about his conduct. The case marks the first time in at least a decade that a law enforcement officer has been charged under the civil rights statute.
Defense attorney David Allen urged jurors in his closing argument to see things from Bonnar's view -- to see that he had to make split-second decisions while tangled with a belligerent suspect who might be armed.
More important, Allen said, were photos of Damon's face after the episode. The photos, displayed in court, showed her face absent of bruises, serious swelling or bleeding, raising doubts about the accusations leveled by other deputies, he said.
Bonnar had two years on the job and less experience than other officers, he said.
"It's remarkable in my mind that Deputy Bonnar is on trial after what Ms. Damon and Mr. Wafer have done, after the mischief they have caused," Allen said.
Harris reminded jurors that evidence of "physical pain, no matter how temporary" is enough to convict a police officer under the civil-rights statute.
Bonnar was suspended for 20 days after an internal investigation, something the jury did not hear. His superiors found that his actions were out of control and recommended that he be fired.
But Sheriff Sue Rahr opted for suspension after conferring with department legal advisers, who thought Bonnar would win an appeal.