The U.S. Attorney’s office is considering potential federal charges in the beating of a biracial man after a county jury acquitted three white former police officers of most of the charges against them, a federal prosecutor said Saturday.
County prosecutors claimed the men beat Frank Jude Jr. on Oct. 24, 2004, because they thought he stole a badge at a party. Defense lawyers argued that key prosecution witnesses were unreliable.
After more than 26 hours of deliberations, the all-white jury returned not guilty verdicts late Friday on the charges against Daniel Masarik and Andrew Spengler, both 26. John Bartlett, 34, was cleared on one charge but the jury deadlocked on a charge of substantial battery.
U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic said Saturday he already had spoken with District Attorney E. Michael McCann and Mayor Tom Barrett.
“We’ll meet with the district attorney, we’ll review the evidence that he and the Milwaukee police gathered and we will evaluate to determine if any of the conduct violates federal law,” Biskupic said.
“I’m committed to doing this as promptly as possible,” said Biskupic, who said he would look at the federal statute that applies to police officers who deprive citizens of their civil rights.
Mayor ‘shocked and outraged’ by verdicts
The mayor had said after the verdicts that he spoke to federal authorities about a possible civil rights case.
“I am absolutely shocked and outraged by these verdicts,” Barrett said. “Mr. Jude was beaten badly and we need to hold accountable those who are responsible. This is not over.”
Jude’s attorney, Jonathan Safran, said his client was happy federal prosecutors were investigating.
“He asked me to make sure everyone knows from his mouth that people should remain calm,” Safran said. “He didn’t want anyone else to get hurt based on what happened to him.”
Jude, 27, of Appleton, said the group kicked and punched him, someone put a knife to his throat and someone stuck something in his ears. He couldn’t identify his assailants but said he heard Spengler threaten him. He suffered facial injuries that required reconstructive surgery.
The three defendants were among nine officers fired as a result of the beating outside a house in a mostly white, working-class neighborhood on the city’s south side. Witnesses said they heard someone call Jude and a black friend racial slurs during the assault.
All three men had been charged with substantial battery. Masarik also faced a charge of recklessly endangering safety, and faces a charge of perjury that is scheduled to be tried in June. Bartlett also faced a charge of recklessly endangering safety.
Bartlett’s attorney, Gerald Boyle, said he had prepared his client for a guilty verdict, and was “elated with the outcome of this case.” Steve Kohn, Masarik’s lawyer, said he expected a not guilty verdict. Spengler’s attorney, Michael Hart, said his client was “very, very relieved and thankful.”