UPDATE: Officer found not guilty of assault & battery

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Vindication tonight for a Richmond police officer. A jury found Donnell Patterson not guilty of assaulting an 18-year-old outside a Richmond night club. It only took a jury of 7 men and women 35 minutes to make up their minds.

Donnell Patterson walked out the courthouse without saying a word. His attorney says the jury spoke loud enough.

"That's he's an excellent young man and we're well served by having him as a police officer," said John Rockecharlie, Patterson's attorney.

The jury found Patterson not guilty of assaulting then 18-year-old Sedaris Fitzgerald. The incident happened last June outside Club 534 on Harrison Street near VCU. The club had let out. Officer Patterson -- working off-duty security, but in uniform -- was trying to get the crowd moving.

Fitzgerald said Patterson singled him out, and told him he would make an example of him and grabbed him by the neck and took him to the ground. Officer Patterson took the stand in his own defense and said it was Fitzgerald who spun around into him and took him to the ground.

"It was a chaotic situation where the two of them tumbled down. Who knows how that happened," Rockecharlie said.

Fitzgerald was not charged with anything. He suffered minor scrapes and bruises and filed a complaint. In the end the jury believed Patterson, disappointing a special prosecutor out of Henrico who brought the charges forward.

"We respect the jury's decision, we certainly investigated the case and thought the evidence we presented would sustain a conviction. And that's why we went forward with these charges," said Prosecutor Frank LaRuffa.

Patterson's attorney says the evidence was weak, and could have ruined his client's career. He says the case should never have gotten this far.

"When you bring a charge against a police officer you put a stain on his record. You take him out of active duty for 6 months. I just don't think it should have been brought," Rockecharlie said.

Patterson's attorney says he is ready to get off desk duty and back onto the city streets.

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