NEW ORLEANS – A police union official and a lawyer for officers accused in the beating of a retired teacher on Wednesday sharply disputed the man's contention he was brutalized during his arrest, which was captured on video.
Attorney Frank DeSalvo (search) said the video shows a truncated version of the Saturday night arrest and he disputed details the video appears to have captured, including whether the 64-year-old suspect was punched in the face.
"I see an incident of a man trying to be brought under control who doesn't want to be brought under control," DeSalvo said.
The man who was beaten, Robert Davis (search), pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of public intoxication, resisting arrest, battery on a police officer and public intimidation.
Davis has described himself as a recovering substance abuser who has not had a drink in 25 years. His lawyer asked prosecutors to dismiss charges, but his trial was set for Jan. 18.
The two city officers accused in the beating, and a third accused of grabbing and shoving an Associated Press Television News producer, are due to go on trial on battery charges a week before Davis' trial.
Davis' lawyer, Joseph Bruno, said an APTN (search) videotape of the confrontation shows his client being brutalized by police for no reason. After the arraignment, however, leaders of the city's police union offered their own interpretations.
Police union officials described Davis as so intoxicated that he staggered down the street, stumbled into a police horse and became belligerent when officers intervened.
DeSalvo said police union officials had "broken the thing down frame by frame" and saw officers trying to bring under control an angry man. "He brought it on by his actions," DeSalvo said.
No tests for intoxication were administered following the arrest. In such cases, judges typically rely on officers' observations, said police spokesman Marlon Defillo.
The officers involved in the incident — Lance Schilling, Robert Evangelist and S.M. Smith — did not speak during the news conference. DeSalvo said Schilling and Evangelist hit Davis' shoulders, and he denied the arrest was as violent as has been portrayed.
"He clearly was not hit in the face," DeSalvo said.
DeSalvo also disputed Davis' lawyer's contention that Davis suffered fractures to his cheek and eye socket. DeSalvo said the injuries were scrapes caused when he was placed face down on the pavement.
The three officers have been suspended without pay. Lt. David Benelli, president of the police union, said the suspensions would be appealed, although that's been delayed by a city government stalled in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (search).
Davis did not speak to reporters after his arraignment. He has said he approached a mounted police officer to ask about the city's curfew while searching for cigarettes on Bourbon Street and a confrontation ensued with another officer.
DeSalvo also claimed that APTN producer Rich Matthews grabbed Smith and spun him around before the officer responded by pushing the producer away from the arrest.
The video shows that when Matthews held up his media credentials, the officer shoved him backward over a car, jabbed him in the stomach and unleashed a profanity-laced tirade.
Matthews, who was not charged, disputed DeSalvo's account and said he never touched the officer.
A Department of Homeland Security (search) official, meanwhile, said the agency would look into allegations by two hurricane relief volunteers who accuse federal officials of mistreating them after they saw Davis being beaten.
University of South Florida student Calvin Briles, 21, said that when law enforcement tried to clear bystanders from the area, he said, "I want to tell somebody about this."
Briles told the Bradenton Herald a man wearing a U.S. Customs vest then grabbed him, threw him against a car, pressed his head against the hood and told him, "It's none of your business."
Fellow USF student Mike Monaghan, 22, told the paper he was handled roughly after he tried to pick up a cell phone Briles dropped in the confrontation and a police horse nudged his head. An unidentified official grabbed him from behind and asked him why he hit the horse, he said.
Both men were handcuffed but neither was charged, although Briles said officials read him a handful of charges before eventually letting him go.
"We felt violated," Briles said.
Wade Thompson, the students' lawyer, said when contacted by the AP that his clients had no additional comment.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Marc Raimondi said Wednesday that the Homeland Security Department's inspector general would look into the complaint.