JURY CONVICTS THREE OF FOUR ST. CROIX COPS

Although a jury returned a mixed bag of verdicts Wednesday in the trial of four St. Croix police officers accused of violating the civil rights of more than a dozen people over a four-year period, federal prosecutors were able to get multiple convictions on three of the defendants.
On the most serious of the 31 charges levied against the officers, the jury of 10 women and two men found Ronald Pickard and Dean Bates not guilty of two charges of raping an adult nightclub dancer in May of 1999.
Officer Renaldo Philbert was found guilty on three counts of civil rights violations and assault.
Victor Suarez was the only one of the four able to leave St. Croix District Court after the verdict was read. The jury couldn’t agree on three of the counts levied against him and found him not guilty on the others.
Pickard was acquitted of nine of the 22 counts against him, including the rape charges and threatening an FBI agent. The jury was unable to agree on six counts, which included allegations that Pickard stuck his gun in the face of a tourist in Christiansted. Pickard was convicted on seven counts, including assault with a deadly weapon, brandishing a handgun, civil rights violations and oppression.
Bates was convicted on four of the same charges as Pickard and acquitted of two others. There was a hung jury on three.
As the jury forewoman read off the verdicts against each man, sobs began to rise from family members seated in the gallery.
Attorneys for Pickard, Bates and Philbert requested that the defendants remain on house arrest until their sentencing hearing. But because the convictions involved crimes of violence, District Court Judge Raymond Finch denied the request.
"I find that I have no authority under the law to grant release," Finch said, ordering the dozen or so federal marshals stationed around the courtroom to take the defendants into custody.
As the three men were led out of the courtroom, hair-raising wails went up and marshals and family members briefly tussled. A marshal wouldn’t comment on where the defendants would be held until a sentencing hearing.
Defense attorneys wouldn’t comment on the case nor would the defendants’ family members.
The 12 counts that resulted in a hung jury could be retried, though Assistant U.S. Attorney St. Claire Theodore said the government had not decided whether to move for retrial. Four of the counts involved the incident in which Pickard was alleged to have assaulted a tourist.
"We’ll see," Theodore said. "We have to talk to the victims, first and foremost."
The civil rights violations carry a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison while the handgun violations carry five-year sentences. A sentencing hearing has not been set.

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