DENVER - After two hours of deliberation, a jury Tuesday found a Denver Police officer not guilty of using excessive force by slamming a man's face into the ground and breaking his teeth, even though the event was caught on videotape.
The acquittal means that Cpl. Michael Cordova, who was hired in 2001, will get to keep his job. Cordova was charged with a felony which was later reduced to third-degree assault after he arrested a man on the Opening Day of the Colorado Rockies 2008 season while he was working with the vice-squad in an undercover scalping sting.
"I am thrilled. I know that Officer Cordova is thrilled. The police officers that supported him throughout the trial are thrilled. They think justice was done today," Marc Colin, Cordova's attorney, said.
"The video didn't quite carry the day, did it?" Denver Assistant District Attorney Chuck Lepley said.
Heaney, who was riding his bike past Coors Field on his way to see his mother in a hospice, claimed Cordova and other undercover police officers pulled him off his bike, kicked, punched and beat him, then slammed his face into the ground, breaking two front teeth. He says all this happened while he was on his stomach about to be handcuffed.
A sports video production crew caught the event on tape and gave it to 9Wants to Know, which investigated the case and talked to witnesses.
Colin argued to jurors that the sound on the tape, and that witnesses say they heard, was not the sound of Heaney's teeth breaking, but rather the sound of a baseball hitting a bat during batting practice outside of Coors Field.
The defense also called expert witnesses who said it looked like Heaney was resisting arrest on videotape and as a result, Cordova and other police officers were legally authorized to use force to take Heaney into custody.
"Cordova acted within the duties of a police officer and within the scope of his training," Colin told jurors.
The defense attorney also raised questions about the sports TV crew not providing the raw footage of the arrest immediately to the police department. The crew provided an exact copy first and the raw video of it was subpoenaed.
"What were the witnesses trying to hide?" Colin said to the jury.
Cordova did not take the stand in his own defense during the trial.
In closing arguments Tuesday morning, Denver Chief Deputy District Attorney Doug Jackson argued that Cordova used excessive use of force on Heaney when Heaney was lying on the ground on his stomach and the officer pulled Heaney's hair up then slammed his face into the pavement.
Jackson also argued that the defense paid witnesses to testify against Heaney.
"The defense is saying you can't believe the sound or your eyes and that you can't believe what the witnesses told you," Jackson said as he simultaneously covered his ears, eyes and mouth with his hands. "Use your common sense and find him guilty."
Cordova has been working a desk job at the police department during the trial, according to Colin.
Heaney's attorney maintains that the video still clearly shows police brutality.
"The police department and the DA have not given up on the belief that Heaney was somehow responsible. That's why they were half-hearted in their prosecution of this case," said Lonn Heymann, Heaney's attorney. "The other officers were never investigated, nor was the police officer's dishonesty during Heaney's criminal case. The prosecution simply did not use powerful evidence against Cordova that was available, including proof that the police story was fabricated."
Heaney is still pursing a civil case against the police department, seeking damages for his injuries that he says were caused during the arrest.
If you have any news tips, please e-mail 9Wants to Know investigator Deborah.Sherman@9NEWS.com.
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