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Tribble guilty; to be sentenced May 12

Posted: February 3, 2011 5:57 p.m.
Updated: February 4, 2011 5:00 a.m.

Former Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) Sgt. Oddie Tribble Jr. was found guilty Thursday of violating a Camden man’s constitutionally protected right to be free from the excessive use of force. Tribble will be sentenced May 12; he could face up to 10 years in federal prison.

The verdict came a full week after the trial in the Matthew J. Perry Jr. U.S. Courthouse in downtown Columbia began and after approximately 11 hours of deliberation over two days. Tribble returned to the witness stand Tuesday morning, using a slowed-down video to explain why he struck a handcuffed man -- Charles Shelley -- 27 times with an asp baton.

The day started with Tribble insisting he struck Shelley because the Camden man was not complying with his orders. It ended with one of his three attorneys, Johnny Gasser, asking the jury not to find his client guilty.

Second by second

Tribble said he was the first person off a KCSO transport van bringing prisoners, including Shelley, to the Kershaw County Detention Center (KCDC) from a pair of roadblocks on Camden’s Haile Street. He secured his .40 caliber Glock handgun and Taser, then returned to the van so former deputy Jimmy Simmons, who’d been driving, could do the same. Tribble then opened the van’s double door, reached inside and grabbed a small stool which he set on the ground. He then asked Maria Padilla -- who had been arrested for driving without a license -- to step out of the van with his assistance.

Next was Charles Shelley, who would ultimately face five charges stemming from his roadblock arrest: open container, driving under suspension, habitual offender, giving false information to police and simple possession of marijuana.

Gasser had Tribble explain virtually every move on the recording for the jury.

8:30:52: “I tell Mr. Shelley to move forward.” “How did he respond?” asks Gasser. “Didn’t I tell you didn’t need your mother f---ing help?” “What was your response?” “Mr. Shelley, move forward.” “What was his response?” “F--- you.”

The recording slowly plays for 18 seconds, during which Tribble claims he asked Tribble three times to step off the van.

8:30:57: Shelley can be seen through the window of one of the van’s doors. Tribble stands up from the witness chair to demonstrate how he said Shelley, crouched over, stood up and then jumped off the van.

8:31:01: Shelley can be seen moving. “That’s when I took my asp out and popped it out. I had reached in for him and he jerked away, saying ‘Didn’t I tell you not to put your f---ing hands on me?’”

8:31:03: Shelley’s head is at the door. “I’m going to reach in and he stood up,” said Tribble, this time demonstrating how he had his asp in his right hand and used his left hand to reach for Shelley. “I told him to get down. He said, ‘F--- you’ and jumps down, gets in my face and says ‘What!?’ So I grabbed the rear of his restraint.”

8:31:07: the first strike. “Why did you strike him?” asked Gasser. “Because he was not complying with my directives. I had directed him to step down from the van. He had jumped in my face, yelled ‘What?!’ I reached for his restraint, he jerked away and said ‘Get the f--- off me.’ He was not polite. I want him to move forward, but he doesn’t. I tell him to move toward the door, and he says ‘F--- you.’”

8:31:21: Tribble has dropped his asp and goes to retrieve it, turning his back to Shelley. “I didn’t want it to be unsecured since there were eight more detainees and Deputy Simmons didn’t have an impact weapon,” he said. Tribble said by the time he picked up his asp and turned back around, Shelley was moving toward the van. “I asked him, ‘You gonna move toward the door.’ He says, ‘F--- you, get the f--- away from me.’ I try to move him toward the door, but he’s still jerking and saying ‘Get the f--- up off me. Didn’t I tell you to get the f--- away from me?’”

8:31:41: Shelley has been struck several times and falls down. Tribble said he instructed Shelley to get up. “He said, ‘You not gonna beat me like the Hebrews say, n---er.’”

8:31:42: “He puts his (left) leg up to put in a position to kick me. I strike his leg … I did act intentionally because it was a threat. I told him ‘Keep your legs down.’ ‘F--- you, you not gonna beat me like the Hebrews say. F--- you, I told you to stay away from me.’”

8:31:54: “Here is rising up. He appears he is going to be in compliance insofar as getting up.”

8:31:57: “I try to assist Mr. Shelley in getting up. He says, ‘Get the f--- up off me.’ He is being in non-compliance with my commands.”

8:32:00: Tribble said Shelley was beginning to use “dead man’s weight” to resist being picked up. “It’s when someone locks up their body to resist you from moving them, pulling you downward.” Shelley makes a movement Tribble said was an attempt to kick out again.

8:32:07: Tribble said Shelley was beginning to get up on his own strength but was still telling him to “‘get the f---- away from me. I told you not to f--- with me.’ I tell him, ‘Get up, Mr. Shelley, you need to go to the door.’ He says, ‘F--- you.’ He never stops talking.”

Tribble said that after he began to lift Shelley off the ground, Shelley took a step toward the right in an effort to jerk away. He said he would have liked to put one hand on Shelley’s restraints and another on his arm in an effort to physically move him toward the intake door, but couldn’t because he was still holding the asp. As the jury continued watching, Tribble said that as he moved Shelley toward the intake door, Shelley turned toward the intake control room window in an effort “to get me to release my hand. I had to pull him to come up forward.”

From the particular camera angle being viewed, Tribble and Shelley disappear around a corner of the intake control room’s outside wall. Tribble claimed that Shelley took a step toward the left where there is a short walkway immediately to the left of the intake area door.

“He said, ‘You ain’t gonna put me in here.”

That’s when Tribble delivered the last three strikes.

8:32:38: on the second camera angle, Tribble and Shelley are seen walking past the intake room windows. Tribble tells the jury they should be able to see Shelley’s left arm jerk upward -- another effort, he said, to move away from the intake door.

At the intake door, Tribble repeats his claim that he delivered the last three blows because Shelley had moved toward the walkway.

“He’s still not in compliance with going in the door’s he’s supposed to go in,” said Tribble.

At that point, he said, KCDC Lt. James Robinson came to the door and instructed him to take Shelley to the hospital.

8:33:11: Tribble said had retracted his asp and put it in his belt because the door was open for Shelley to go inside. A few seconds later, after Robinson’s request, Tribble has gotten Shelley up off the floor and using an “arm bar” technique just below Shelley’s shoulder blades to push him to the van to keep him stationary.

“During the 15 seconds that you were at the van, trying get him to move toward the door, did you react to anything he was saying?” asked Gasser.

“No, sir.”

“During the 42 seconds he was on floor?”

“No, sir.”

“While you were trying to move him toward the door?

“No, sir.”

“During that entire 97 seconds, while he was talking about race and using vulgar words, did you say anything back to Mr. Shelley?” asked Gasser.

“Not a thing,” said Tribble, other than commands to move.

“Why did you strike Mr. Shelley 27 times, Sgt. Tribble?”

“Because Mr. Shelley was not in compliance,” answered Tribble. “Mr. Shelley was not in compliance … I was on alert. My whole objective was to move Mr. Shelley into the detention center. He was physically aggressive toward me and was not in compliance.”

Four stories

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara McGowan wasn’t buying it.

“This is the fourth time you’ve told this story, isn’t it, Mr. Tribble?” McGowan asked as she began her cross examination.

Tribble looked confused, but then confirmed, in turn, that he had given statements to investigators on Aug. 5 just hours after the incident, later that night during the early morning hours of Aug. 6 and again that afternoon.

“So that’s four, including today, right?” asked McGowan; Tribble said it was.

McGowan went through a number of Tribble’s statements, not just about what happened, but about what was said.

“Over 15 times, you said, he said not to ‘F---in’ touch him?’ That he tried to kick you twice? That he moved away toward that hallway?” she asked.

To each, Tribble said that was so.

“Is that the first time you’ve said any of those things?” asked McGowan.

Tribble looked confused again.

“They’re not in any of your other statements or your incident report,” she said.

Tribble said he remembered those things after some time had passed following the incident … and after watching the video.

“But there’s no audio. How could the video refresh your memory of what was said? How could it refresh your memory from the van ride?” McGowan asked.

She said Tribble’s first statement was given less than two hours after the beating, around 10:15 p.m.

“You don’t say anything about Mr. Shelley jerking away four times, do you?”

“No, ma’am.”

“You never mentioned he tried to kick you two times?”

“No, ma’am.”

“You never mention ‘f--- you?’”

“No, ma’am.”

“You don’t mention him darting down the hallway?”

“No, ma’am.”

And on McGowan went, through Shelley’s alleged threats against Tribble and his family to KCSO Deputy Katherine Iseman telling him Shelley was intoxicated at the roadblock.

“No, ma’am.”

“What you did say was that Mr. Shelley said ‘I don’t want you.’”

McGowan went through the same process with Tribble’s second statement, from around 1 a.m. Aug. 6.

“You don’t mention the last three strikes. You don’t mention Mr. Shelley’s head slamming on the van. You don’t say anything about ‘mother f---er.’ You never mention Mr. Shelley saying ‘don’t f---in’ touch me’ 10 times. You never mention the kicks,” said McGowan. “What you did say was that Mr. Shelley said ‘I don’t want you.’”

McGowan also said there was nothing in either of the first two statements about Shelley jumping off the van and getting into Tribble’s face.

“You added that today in court, didn’t you, Mr. Tribble?”

“It’s not just added today. After viewing the film, it helped me with recollections from that day,” said Tribble, agreeing that he had watched the video in preparation for his testimony.

McGowan then addressed, but did not play back, a video recorded interview of Tribble conducted by S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Agent Lee Blackmon from the afternoon of Aug. 6. Tribble asked for a copy of the transcript and looked it over for a short time before answering McGowan’s questions about his reactions to Shelley’s words.

Tribble’s words, as recited by McGowan: “You got to be above that when you’re dealing with an individual, especially someone who is racist … but with the threats, and I can say this, I’ll just be honest, I didn’t take a liking to his threats, because he was trying to go into my personal family and bring in other people, bring in family members, which was wrong. But I look at it this way -- I don’t feel he could hurt me and I don’t feel he could hurt my family, but I don’t put anything past (him). But I don’t have any fear toward him as far as that threat.”

McGowan said Tribble told Blackmon that Shelley couldn’t elbow him because he was handcuffed.

“But on direct from Mr. Gasser, with the slowed down video, you told the jury he tried to elbow you,” said McGowan, referring to Shelley’s supposedly raised left arm as they were walking past the intake windows.

“I didn’t say he was trying to elbow me, I said he was going in to resistance,” said Tribble.

“Maybe that’s not important … or maybe it just didn’t happen. How about that, Mr. Tribble?”

During the course of the next 10 to 15 minutes, McGowan peppered Tribble with more questions about his interview with Blackmon. At one point, she focused on Tribble’s dropping of the baton. Again, Tribble asserted he had to get it back because of the remaining detainees in the sally port.

McGowan pointed out that they were still on the van, handcuffed to the rear. The only people outside the van, she said, were Tribble, Shelley, Padilla and his own partner, Simmons.

“Were you afraid Mr. Simmons was going to pick up the baton and hit you with it?”

“No, ma’am,” answered Tribble. “I had a subject who was being non-compliant.”

“So, you were afraid of Mr. Shelley bending over backwards to pick up the baton?” asked McGowan.

“I don’t know Mr. Shelley’s capabilities,” answered Tribble.

McGowan said Tribble told Blackmon he would have only needed “three to four licks” to get Shelley to the ground.

“But you used 27, didn’t you Mr. Tribble?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You also told him that Shelley was only mouthing off … and then, ‘I started popping him?’”

At first, Tribble answered no, but changed to “correct” after McGowan read back the pertinent passage.

A short time later, McGowan and Tribble went back and forth over exactly when he deployed his asp. Was it before or after the first “jerk” and were those jerks while Shelley was still on the van? Tribble said he meant “commands” and that he only did so after Shelley came off the van.

“When I went in to reach for him, he jerked,” Tribble said of why he deployed his asp.

Surprise leapt onto McGowan’s face.

“Have you ever said that before now, Mr. Tribble?” asked McGowan.

He said he had, to his lawyers.

“So, this is now the fifth version,” said McGowan. “That Mr. Shelley jerked away from you while coming out of the van and that’s when you deployed your asp.”

McGowan accused Tribble of deliberately changing his testimony in order to stay away from the charge of using unnecessary force.

She then went back to what Tribble did not tell Blackmon, especially that he didn’t tell the agent about the last three strikes. Tribble said he was trying to recollect everything about the incident during that particular interview but that, “obviously,” he hadn’t. Tribble then spent a long time reading over his statement to Blackmon.

“I do remember Agent Blackmon asking (if) I remember striking Mr. Shelley three times at the door,” Tribble finally said. “At that time, I couldn’t recollect.”

McGowan goes on to ask whether Tribble mentioned the “head slam” into the van, Shelley saying that he was going “kick (Tribble’s) a--” or Shelley trying to kick him twice while he’s on the ground. In each case, Tribble answered “no ma’am.”

“And how did you expect Mr. Shelley to get up if he didn’t move his legs?” asked McGowan, reminding Tribble Shelley was handcuffed.

Tribble said Shelley could have moved his leg into a position to sit up, but that he moved his leg out in a kicking motion instead.

Finally, McGowan said she wanted to make sure Tribble understood the concept of only using the necessary amount of force.

“If all Mr. Shelley was doing was verbally acting up on Aug. 5, were you not reasonable when you used force?” she asked.

“Mr. Shelley was non-compliant, ma’am.”

“Let me repeat the question…” and McGowan did, after which Tribble replied “yes, ma’am,” but it was unclear whether he meant “yes, ma’am” he wasn’t reasonable, or “yes, ma’am” he was reasonable.

He repeated “yes ma’am” to questions like “On Aug. 5, you never backed down” even when Shelley was on the ground, when he couldn’t walk or when he pushed him into the van. But it was unclear again whether he meant “yes,” he did back down or was agreeing that he hadn’t.

Tribble also agreed that neither he nor Simmons called for backup, asked for leg restraints or made a plan of any kind to “deal with this man threatening your life,” as McGowan put it. She asked whether there could have been alternatives in how to deal with Shelley. Could they have left Padilla on the van and somehow taken Shelley off first? Could they have taken Padilla all the way into intake and then dealt with Shelley. In both cases, Tribble said no, due to security reasons.

“How could you have kept your eyes on Ms. Padilla if you were focused on beating Mr. Shelley,” McGowan asked.

“I have peripheral vision; I can see out of the corner of my eyes,” said Tribble, who also confirmed he had not tried -- at any point -- to use soft, empty hand control or pressure points to deal with Shelley.

On redirect, Gasser brought Tribble a copy of yet another statement, this one to former KCSO Inv. George Marthers. In that statement, said Harris, Tribble told Marthers about Shelley’s condition: that he was irate and that “he was going to kill my family; he wanted my daughter and wife.” Tribble said the statement refreshed his memory about Shelley jerking back while still on the van and that he brought out his asp after the second refusal to step out.

Again Tribble insisted, Shelley would “follow no commands.”

Another expert

Tribble was not the defense’s last witness. That role was left to Campbell Streater, a private investigator who is in the process of joining the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office as an investigator there. In addition to prior law enforcement with the ABC Commission, the University of South Carolina Police Department (USCPD) and SLED, Streater has also served as a guest trainer at the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy (CJA). He said he taught defensive tactics, including the use of an asp baton.

Streater said if he were training officers to deal with a situation similar to that of Aug. 5, he would have trainees look at whether the subject was impaired by alcohol or drugs; and if they were combative, non-compliant and making threats, including threats of bodily harm. He said those would be indicators that the officer should be on a higher level of awareness.

“If they are non-cooperative … a little red flag should pop up,” said Streater. “The officer has got to be prepared for anything and tell the subject what they are going to do and what they are not going to do.”

Gasser had Streater go through the video in much the same manner as he had with Tribble. In each case, Streater indicated Tribble’s strikes were justified.

“It appeared to me that Mr. Shelley was not complying with Sgt. Tribble. Sgt. Tribble was not in control (of Shelley),” Streater said.

Gasser had the 49 seconds where Shelley is on the sally port floor played back very slowly. Streater said there were only two instances where Tribble struck Shelley during that time and only because Shelley’s leg came out as if it to kick. He also said it was necessary for Tribble to use the “arm bar” technique at the end of the video in order to “keep (Shelley) off balance.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Beth Drake asked Streater if he left out of his testimony what she believed were critical factors in his examination of the video: that Shelley was handcuffed and that the sally port was secure. He agreed he had not included them.

Drake also asked Streater if Tribble, instead of striking him with the asp, could have simply moved him -- perhaps with the arm bar technique -- toward the intake door.

“He could have,” he answered.

Drake replayed the clip of Tribble pinning Shelley to the van.

That’s how you move an inmate where you want him to go, isn’t it, Mr. Streater?”

The closers

The remainder of Tuesday afternoon was given to McGowan’s and Gasser’s closing arguments, with Drake’s final rebuttal saved for Wednesday morning.

“On Aug. 5, 2010, Oddie Tribble, while on duty as a Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office officer, beat Charles Shelley 27 times with a metal asp baton while Mr. Shelley was handcuffed, behind the gate of a locked, secured facility,” said McGowan. “Oddie Tribble even beat Mr. Shelley while he was on the ground. He broke his skin, he broke his leg and he broke the law.”

McGowan said that, despite what the defense would say, this was not a case about a law enforcement officer dealing with a threat, or that Tribble had made some kind of mistake.

“This was not a mistake, not an accident; it was willful, unlawful and deliberate,” McGowan said.

As U.S. District Judge Cameron Currie would later charge the jury, McGowan explained that to find Tribble guilty, jurors would have to find that she and her fellow prosecutors had proven five elements were present. The first two -- that Tribble was actually in South Carolina and acting under the “color of law” -- had already been agreed to by the defense.

The remaining three, however, were still in dispute:

• that Tribble’s actions denied Shelley’s constitutionally protected right to be free from the excessive use of force;

• that Tribble acted willfully; and

• that his actions resulted in bodily injury.

“I dare anyone to walk in this courtroom and say that being hit 27 times doesn’t cause pain,” said McGowan. “Every single blow of that asp baton was painful.”

McGowan rejected the defense’s notion that Shelley’s alleged words -- the threats, vulgarities -- justified the leg strikes.

“The government submits that it does not matter what Shelley said. It’s absolutely irrelevant whether or not he mouthed off for two minutes or 10 minutes on that van ride. Shelley’s words do not justify the use of force. The law does not permit the physical use of force as punishment. Mere words do not constitute aggression,” said McGowan.

She asked the jury to consider the fact that Tribble’s goal was to move Shelley 15 feet to the intake door. She asked them to think about pressure points and any threat that could have reasonably been perceived by Tribble.

“You really have to wonder how Mr. Tribble felt when he pulled up to the sally port at the jail, what options he had and what he didn’t use. He wants you to believe Mr. Shelley was a real, credible threat and that’s just not true,” McGowan said.

McGowan quickly went through a timeline of the video.

“It didn’t matter what Mr. Shelley did or how quick he did it,” McGowan said afterward, “Mr. Tribble had his asp ready.”

She said 96 seconds changed everything for Shelley, Tribble and all the witnesses who had testified -- 96 seconds that showed Tribble violated Shelley’s right to be free from excessive force. McGowan also said Tribble’s willfulness to do so was shown by his having the asp baton out, that he knew he was going to use it, before Shelley even exited the van.

“You look at (the video). Is Mr. Shelley doing anything noncompliant?” she asked; and, later, “I beg you to look at that video by the intake door. Did he move to the left? It’s not there; it never happened. He made it up.”

McGowan also ridiculed the idea that Tribble was ordering Shelley after he had fallen.

“He knew Mr. Shelley couldn’t get up because he had beaten him to the ground,” she said.

McGowan asked the jury why Tribble would have needed to gain control of someone handcuffed behind their back. She argued that Tribble was actually beating Shelley away from the intake door and not in an effort to move him toward it. That Shelley “danced” away from the blows as Tribble beat him to the right.

And, McGowan said, Tribble had no explanation for forcing Shelley against the van the way he did.

“Explain why Mr. Shelley head bounces on and off that hood. That’s pain, ladies and gentlemen.”

McGowan then went back through the other witnesses’ testimonies, including Shelley’s.

She said he admitted “talking trash” on the van and to drinking two 12-ounce beers before being arrested.

“But he never physically got aggressive toward Tribble. He was all talk and no action,” McGowan said. “You may not like Mr. Shelley. You may not agree with his verbal disrespect, but Mr. Shelley’s words do not mean he needed to be beaten on the ground like a dog. No citizen deserves to be beaten like that just for being mouthy. It’s unlawful and it’s wrong.”

McGowan also mentioned the experts’ testimonies, arguing again that Streater never mentioned as factors Shelley’s being on the ground, handcuffed and in a secure facility. She reminded the jury that Hancock had testified that the CJA doesn’t train officers to make snap decisions, but decisions in line with their training.

“Mr. Tribble had that training, he just chose not to use it,” she said.

And McGowan said she “felt bad” for Simmons.

“He is in denial of his role in what happened that night,” she said. “He lied to officers about his responsibilities. He lied about being inside the (intake area). He lied that there were only six blows. I don’t know if you can believe anything he said.”

McGowan asked the jury not to be distracted by the defense, especially in claiming Shelley caused what happened in the KCDC sally port Aug. 5. In reports, she said, Tribble stated that Shelley was listening to commands.

“They can’t have it both ways. Did Mr. Tribble lie? If he lied today, what else has he lied about?”

As she wrapped up her argument, McGowan asked the jury why they should care if Tribble beat Shelley on Aug. 5.

“You should care because it’s not just about Mr. Tribble. It’s about the Constitution, our judicial process, our community and our law enforcement officers. It’s about people who came here and told the truth and said ‘we will not stand for that … it doesn’t stand for what we are, it doesn’t stand for the Constitution.

“He beat the cloak of the Constitution off of Charles Shelley. You have the opportunity to stand up and say this was wrong; that Oddie Tribble used excessive force and caused bodily injury to Charles Shelley.”

For his part, Gasser returned to much of what fellow defense attorney Greg Harris said in his Jan. 27 opening argument: that police officers have to react to situations based on their instincts, experience and training; that the video has to be put in its proper context by, without an audio track, relying on testimony of what was said that night; and that -- comparing the trial to a football game -- being a “Monday morning quarterback” wasn’t a luxury officers enjoy.

“Every day, they put on their uniform, they leave their wives and their families and know they may not come back or may come back injured,” said Gasser.

He told the jury to remember that Tribble was to be presumed innocent until jurors unanimously decided he was not and that the burden of proof in the United States never shifts to the defense.

“The law allows law enforcement to use force in good faith to maintain discipline and restore order,” Gasser said. “Based on Mr. Shelley’s words and actions, you could find that Tribble’s use of force was a good faith effort to restore order. Even if you find him negligent in using that asp baton, but that he had in a good faith effort to restore order and maintain discipline, then he’s not guilty.”

Gasser used nearly the same argument regarding any thought of willfulness on Tribble’s part.

“He had to specifically act with the intent to deprive Mr. Shelley of the right to be free of excessive force. If you find that his intent wasn’t specifically to deprive that right -- even if he used the asp in a negligent manner -- then he’s not guilty,” said Gasser.

He then turned to Tribble and Shelley’s states of mind, based on Shelley’s words and acts.

“The government would have you believe that everything that happened prior to Mr. Shelley coming off the van -- his words and his conduct -- is not relevant to Sgt. Tribble’s threat assessment,” Gasser said. “Is that fair? Is that logical? Is that reasonable? That’s ridiculous!”

Instead, he asked, about Shelley’s state of mind. Gasser argued that Shelley was drunk and smelled of marijuana and that he was noncompliant from the time three deputies went to exchange his metal handcuffs for plastic flexi-cuffs. He argued that everything from that point to the sally port included factors and variables Tribble had been trained to evaluate.

“And ask yourself this: what kind of sick, sadistic man threatens another man’s wife and children? What was in his state of mind? The importance of that is simple: his level of anger crossed such a threshold that he threatened Mr. Tribble’s wife and daughter. How did Mr. Shelley even know he had a wife and daughter?” asked Gasser.

Gasser also talked about the other witnesses and then attacked McGowan’s accusation that Tribble was a liar.

“He’s not under investigation,” said Gasser, “he’s in uniform. No one spent time with him like Mr. Harris did. They said investigators asked him the same questions. That’s not true! He was never asked. Now they say he’s a liar. That’s not fair! He’s not a liar … he wasn’t asked those critical questions.”

Gasser said Tribble had a “right and a duty” to move Shelley from “point A to point B” inside the KCDC, that he had a right to rely on his instincts, experience and training, and that he had a right to rely on all the variables from the first moment he encountered Shelley to Shelley’s jumping off the van.

“The bottom line is simple: on Aug. 5, Sgt. Tribble was presented and reacting to a detainee that was intoxicated, belligerent, verbally and physically threatening and noncompliant. That’s an absolute fact,” said Gasser.

And, as Harris had in his opening, he asked the jury to consider that Tribble had to know he was being recorded.

“Why would he allow Deputy Simmons to drive into a sally port with cameras?” asked Gasser. “He had every opportunity to (violate Shelley’s rights) before arriving at the detention center. They were driving down a non-residential road in a wooded area. He could have told Simmons to ‘pull over, I need to talk with this detainee.’

“He could have taken him out to the back of the van, with the other prisoners facing forward. If he wanted to violate his rights, he would have taken him behind that van where there was no video. Wouldn’t a person who truly wanted to violate someone civil rights have done that?”

Gasser also argued that if Tribble wanted to violate Shelley’s civil rights he wouldn’t have struck him only twice during the 49 seconds Shelley lay on the sally port floor.

“If he intentionally wanted to violate his rights, don’t you think he would have hit him in the head, face, neck, groin, ribs or knee cap? If his intent was sadistic, malicious harm, wouldn’t he have teed off on him in those vital areas? Every single one of those strikes is in compliance,” said Gasser.

Gasser argued that Tribble, in fact, did exactly what he was supposed to do. He said Tribble was trained to get belligerent, intoxicated, noncompliant, threatening individuals under control by -- if the situation is “right” -- getting them to the ground using an intermediate weapon.

“So, what do we see on the video? We see Tribble get him on the ground exactly like he’s trained to do,” he said.

Gasser said Shelley’s broken leg was his own fault.

“Mr. Shelley is the author of his own dilemma,” he said. “If not for the conduct of Mr. Shelley, none of us would be here. These were his choices, his conduct, he refused to comply, he got mad, he jerked away. In the video, it’s clear Sgt. Tribble gave him multiple opportunities to comply. He used the force he felt was necessary in a good faith effort to get and restore order.

“If anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt, it’s the Oddie Tribbles of this world. He did the best he (could) under the circumstances.”

Drake took issue with Gasser’s football analogy Wednesday morning.

“This isn’t a football game, this is the American justice system,” said Drake. “There’s a fundamental issue at stake: that when a law enforcement officer abuses his authority, we hold that officer accountable.”

Holding up a KCSO shirt, Drake said that uniform comes with an “awesome” amount of authority.

“It comes with every bit of authority to use the force that is necessary to defend and protect the community. This awesome responsibility also goes to our Constitution, which sets our country apart from virtually every other nation in the world -- that regardless of race, national origin, how much money you make -- every citizen of America is to be free from the excessive use of force,” said Drake.

She said there is a thin line between poor judgment and an honest error.

“Tribble jumped -- he skipped over that line when he hit Mr. Shelley with a baton 27 times,” said Drake. “Good men do bad things,” she said. “There has been some talk about Mr. Tribble’s character, but good men do bad things. History if full of examples. And when they know right from wrong, they have a hard time admitting what they’ve done -- they blame someone else. That’s what you saw from Mr. Tribble. He is not a mass murderer, but he did do a bad thing, he did a criminal thing. When he struck Mr. Shelley with this asp baton, he broke the law.

“This badge is not a shield from the law.”

Drake took issue with Gasser’s assertion that no one would be in Courtroom II if Shelley hadn’t made the choices he made.

Instead, she said, “We wouldn’t be here if Mr. Tribble hadn’t hit him 27 times with an asp baton.”

And, audio track or not, Drake said mere words were not enough to justify Tribble’s aggression. Gasser had argued law enforcement has no pause button, as the video did. Drake said they have to have one.

“When a detainee quits, the officer has to move back down the scale,” said Drake. “Mr. Tribble didn’t.”

As for the last three strikes, she discounted Tribble’s assertion that Shelley was trying to go down a hallway.

“All that … is like ‘the dog ate my homework.’ Those last three strikes are enough to find him guilty. The man was bent on beating Mr. Shelley, camera or no camera,” Drake said.

By 10:30 a.m., the jury was sent with its instructions, all the evidence, the video recordings and their memories of all the testimony to determine Oddie Tribble’s fate. Jurors spent the rest of Wednesday deliberating, leaving at 5:30 p.m. and resuming at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

The verdict

A little before 3 p.m., attorneys for both the prosecution and defense returned to the courthouse, explaining they had just learned the jury was ready with its verdict. A few minutes later, Judge Currie accepted a signed form from the foreperson and handed it to her clerk who read out the guilty verdict. There was no reaction from Tribble and only the slightest reaction from Shelley and his family.

Harris asked that the jurors be individually polled. They were asked if “guilty” was their verdict; each, called by juror number, said “yes.”

Judge Currie ruled that Tribble could remain out on bond. Gasser, speaking for Tribble and the defense team outside the courthouse, said they were now focused on the May 12 sentencing -- a chance for those in the community, he said, who know the “real Oddie Tribble” to speak on his behalf. He said they were disappointed in the verdict, but were “looking forward.”

Drake, speaking on behalf of the U.S. government, said they were gratified with the verdict and grateful for the jury’s hard work and their service.

 

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