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Officer's honesty attacked

Defense lawyers say he didn't tell them he was being investigated in another beating case in December.

By KATHRYN WEXLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 18, 2000


TAMPA -- An officer filmed by a television cameraman as he thrust a handcuffed suspect head-first onto a pickup truck bed in December has come under fire by defense attorneys in another case.

In a motion filed Friday in Hillsborough Circuit Court, lawyers argue that their client, Bruce Thaw, deserves a new trial because Officer David Dimarco did not reveal when questioned by attorneys Feb. 15 that he was under investigation for the December arrest.

"He was deliberately trying to mislead," said Assistant Public Defender Michael Connell. "It may have made a difference with the jury."

State Attorney Harry Lee Coe, against the advice of his staff, cleared Dimarco of wrongdoing in the December arrest.

But an internal investigation by the Tampa Police Department into whether he violated department policies remains open.

Dimarco says he didn't know the nature of the Police Department's investigation into the December arrest when he was questioned before Thaw's trial last week. Defense attorneys say he did.

Defense attorneys also blame another officer, James Bryan III, for roughing up Thaw during the arrest.

Bryan took part in the December arrest and also was cleared of criminal wrongdoing. He still is under investigation by police officials.

Dimarco, Bryan and other officers were undercover Oct. 13, trying to bust a suspected prostitution ring at Thaw's mobile-home complex on Annette Avenue, according to the motion.

The officers said that they had no reason to believe Thaw, 46, was involved, but that they had followed an undercover car to the area and it was parked near Thaw's driveway, the motion said.

Thaw claims Dimarco and Bryan beat him after he spoke sharply to them and refused to let them inside his mobile home without a warrant.

Thaw said Dimarco threw him outside like "a sack of potatoes," without provocation. Dimarco then hoisted Thaw to his feet by his handcuffs and repeatedly slammed his head against the police car and hit his leg, the motion said.

Thaw spent several days in the jail infirmary and then was taken to the hospital, where he received three pins in his leg and had treatment for an arm injury, the motion said.

"They beat the hell out of this guy," Connell said.

But the jury convicted Thaw of resisting arrest with violence and disturbing the peace. He is serving a sentence at the Orient Road Jail.

Donald Foster, the civil attorney for Wayne Chalu, the defendant arrested by Dimarco and Bryan in December, said Friday that Chalu suffered a broken jaw and cheekbone and that he was missing several teeth as a result of the arrest.

Chalu, reached in jail Friday, said he didn't resist arrest, as the officers have said.


-- To reach Kathryn Wexler, call (813) 226-3386 or e-mail: wexler@sptimes.com.

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