May 25, 2006 – The trial of Officer Earl L. Rogers Jr. – charged in connection with his alleged July assault on movie theater usher Gretta George – will be continued until June 21, according to a ruling by Judge Brenda Hollar. At that time, Hollar will also consider whether or not to grant a motion filed by Rogers' defense attorneys to dismiss all charges.
The trial, which was supposed to begin Thursday, was pushed back after defense attorney Judith Bourne told Hollar that she had not been given certain evidence by the prosecution – including a tape of a 911 call made at the time of the incident, which occurred July 17, 2005.
Rogers is accused of assaulting George at the Market Square East movie theater after she told him not to exit through the entrance door of the building. According to witnesses at the scene, Rogers got angry with George and pushed her out of the theater and onto the sidewalk (See "Witness Says Off-Duty Officer Assaulted Movie Usher").
Bourne said the defense had frequently requested that all transmissions made to the Police Department also be submitted for review. "To this date, I have not received any of that information," Bourne said. She added that the defense had also filed motions to disclose and to compel so that prosecutors could relay the information to her office.
Bourne said that the prosecution only last week released taped interviews with two witnesses to the incident. She said that one of the witnesses was a woman who had accompanied Rogers to the movies when the alleged assault occurred. "This person is an excellent witness for us," Bourne said. "However, I have been unable to locate her since the tapes were only given to us last Friday."
Prosecuting attorney Ernest Bason said he had made several attempts to deliver the tapes to Bourne – all of which were unsuccessful. However, under questioning by Hollar, Bason admitted that his office did not release the police transmissions or the tape of the 911 call made after the incident.
Bason said he would be able to give Bourne the information by next week.
Since Bourne further stated that portions of one of the witness interview tapes seems to have been erased, she also asked that Kenneth Schulterbrandt Jr., a special agent with the Justice Department, release the original copy of the tape.
When questioned by Bourne, Shulterbrandt said he would allow the defense to listen to the tape later Thursday afternoon.
Since all information requested by the defense would be forthcoming, Hollar did not grant the motions to disclose or compel.
While trying to convince Hollar to grant the motion to dismiss, Bourne made several allegations against the prosecution and stated that in one of the interview tapes, Schulterbrandt is heard threatening one of the witnesses.
"He was telling her that since she is here illegally, there will be 'mucho problemas' if she didn't say what the prosecution wanted her to say," Bourne said.
She added that the prosecution also purposely delayed bringing the case to trial, did not disclose the identity of a new eyewitness to the defense, and has introduced as evidence a taped interview with George that the defense has not had time to review.
"The information detailed in that tape is new," Bourne said. "And pertinent – and we didn't get an opportunity to review it."
Bourne further stated that the prosecution has filed a charge against Rogers which, she said, the prosecution has never before used against officers charged with similar crimes.
When asked after the trial, Bason said the charge is called "oppression" or making a false arrest.
He said that after George was allegedly assaulted by Rogers, she was handcuffed and taken down to the hospital. "He was using his authority as an officer for other things," Bason said. "And we have used that charge in other cases."
Other charges filed against Rogers are aggravated assault, battery, and disrupting the peace.
During the trial, Bason also refuted other statements made by Bourne – particularly the fact that the prosecution "vindictively" delayed filing charges against Rogers after the incident occurred.
Bason explained that after the incident, the VIPD asked that the case be turned over to the Justice Department. He said that his office took time to question all the witnesses and deliberated over whether Rogers should be placed under arrest. Bason said that in the end, he decided to file a summons and complaint against Rogers instead of arresting him.
Bason further disputed claims made by Bourne that the prosecution filed charges against Rogers after he had testified in an unrelated court case that he had "cut a secret deal" with the VIPD and continued to be paid after he was suspended.
"During that case, my client also testified against the prosecution – that's something that a prosecutorial attorney would not take lightly," Bourne said.
However, Bason said that Rogers' testimony in this unrelated case had no bearing on the current charges. "We even won that case," he added after the trial. "His testimony doesn't affect us at all."
Hollar said she said she could not yet grant the motion to dismiss without hearing any of the evidence in the current case against Rogers, and would reserve consideration until the trial resumes next month.
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