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WARREN Verdicts buoy police critics

By Peggy Sinkovich

Sunday, September 21, 2003

A prosecutor says jail time won't be recommended.
WARREN -- A broad smile swept across Clarence Clay's face as the judge read the innocent verdicts on charges of resisting arrest and failing to comply with a police officer's order.
The smile didn't go away when Judge Thomas Gysegem read guilty verdicts on two other charges, failure to stop at a stop sign and obstruction of justice.
"I'm very pleased that I was found not guilty on the resisting arrest," Clay said. "Very pleased."
Federal lawsuit
Clay has filed a federal lawsuit alleging police officers beat him and illegally strip-searched him when they arrested him March 26. Police have denied the allegations.
"The jury deliberated eight hours, and they spoke," said Atty. Richard Olivito, who represented Clay.
Judge Gysegem set Clay's sentencing for Monday. He could receive up to 90 days in the county jail.
Atty. Traci Timko-Rose, an assistant city prosecutor, said she is not going to recommend jail time. "I will recommend a suspended jail sentence," she said.
She noted that she believes the officers did their jobs the night they arrested Clay.
"This is good news -- bottom line, this is good news," said Tom Conley, CEO of the Warren-Trumbull Urban League, which has been critical of the police department. "I think this should open the eyes of the police officers, and this is why we want the U.S. Justice Department to do a whole investigation of the police department."
Conley said the Justice Department has been asked to investigate the city police department. Officials at the Justice Department could not be reached to comment.
Police Chief John Mandopoulos left the courtroom shortly after the verdict was announced and could not be reached.
Human relations training
"I had repeatedly said that we need more training in the area of human relations," said Fred Harris, the city safety-service director. "I think we have some good officers, but I think there is some confusion on the officers' part as to what they are supposed to do."
The verdict in Clay's case is seen as a "win," said Karen Bryant, a member of a community organization, Parents Against Police Abuse.
"This has been a long time coming," Bryant said as she wiped tears from her eyes. "I'm so happy, because finally someone has seen what we have been going through."
What was alleged
Patrol Officer Joseph Kistler testified Monday that officers witnessed Clay stop at a house on Homewood Avenue known to be a place where illegal drugs are sold. Kistler said Clay was at the house for about three minutes. When Clay left the house, Kistler and his partner, Ed Hetmanski, followed.
Kistler said Clay went through a stop sign and officers stopped the car. It was Clay, not the officers, who became combative, Kistler said. He added that crumbs of what he believed to be crack cocaine were visible on Clay's lips. Clay was not arrested on drug charges.
Clay testified Tuesday that he went to the house to fix a television. He said he was at the house for 30 minutes before he decided to take the TV home for more repairs.