Steven Horn cleared of serious charges stemming from Carbondale taser incident
A man who was tased by a Carbondale police officer during a traffic stop on Aug. 6, 2004, was cleared by a jury of the two most serious charges stemming from the event, in a trial that ended on Friday.But Steven Horn was convicted of the relatively minor charge of running a stop sign, the traffic violation that led to his being pulled over by Officer Jose Muoz, and ordered by Judge John C. Collins to pay $65 in fines and fees.The conviction is the same as if you had received a citation last August, the judge told Horn. Muoz, when asked by the judge, said the penalties included an assessment of four points against Horns drivers license.Im very pleased, said Horns attorney, Richard Dally, following the verdict by a jury of six Carbondale residents. But he added that he was not surprised: Its what I expected.Horn, who had testified that he is planning to move away from Carbondale largely as a result of bad feelings left over from the incident with Muoz, said after the verdict, Im very thankful that I had a jury that saw these events for what happened.The verdict was the conclusion of a three-day trial that featured testimony by Horn, a procession of police officers and several citizens who witnessed various parts of the confrontation between Muoz and Horn.The confrontation came during a traffic stop in downtown Carbondale, after Muoz saw Horn roll through a stop sign on his way to deliver hay bales for use in a town street party, the KDNK Blues, Brews and Barbecue. After Munz pulled Horn over, and after Horn got out of his pickup truck and approached Muoz to talk, Muoz pulled out his Taser and used it against Horn. Muoz testified that he felt threatened by Horns behavior, which prompted him to use the Taser, a hand-held stun-gun that sends out 50,000 volts of electricity.Muoz and one citizen witness, Nate Towers, manager of Java Joes coffee shop, both testified that Horn was acting aggressively, waving his arms and yelling at the officer. And Muoz maintained that Horn got out of his vehicle and would not return to it, despite the officers repeated demands that he get back in your vehicle and stay there.Several witnesses for the defense, however, testified that Horn never acted aggressively toward Muoz and that Horn was being friendly, if somewhat confused, about why Muoz was acting angry and frightened throughout the encounter.Maura Masters, who had just dropped her kids off at Peppinos for pizza and was walking to the library that day, said that as she approached the scene of the incident she saw the two men standing behind the truck talking.Steven was just smiling and saying, Jos, its me, Steven, and asked several times why Muoz appeared to be upset, Masters testified, adding that she never saw Horn make threatening gestures or remarks aimed at Muoz.At one point, she said, Horn put his hands up and surrendered, and then the officer lunged at him again, stunning Horn with the Taser for perhaps the third or fourth time. The only time Horn shouted at Muoz, she said, was to say such things as ow, cut it out, it hurts, stop it, every time he used the Taser.City attorney Sherry Caloia, in her closing argument to the jury, maintained that Horn committed the violations of resisting arrest and failing to obey Muozs commands before the Taser was used. Thus, she said, the jury should disregard the use of the Taser, and Horns subsequent accusation that he was injured when he was handcuffed at the end of the incident, as being irrelevant to the case.But the jurors felt that, while Horn clearly rolled the stop sign, he did not willfully disobey Muozs commands to stay in his car, nor did he willfully resist arrest.We support the police department and their procedures, said juror Alisa Tillung, but we feel some of the actions of the police officer were not warranted in this case.Carbondale is a small community, added jury foreman Eric Montemayor, where things are done in a certain way and where citizens should reasonably feel able to approach a police officer whom they know by name, even during an official contact, without fear of being harmed.Dally, who had used his closing arguments to label Muoz as not credible, not believable and to criticize the officers handling of the traffic stop, said his next step would be to try to get out of town without getting a traffic ticket.Asked if he planned to move forward with plans to sue the town for up to $250,000, Dally declined to make any comment except to say that town officials refuse to talk to me about the case. He said no civil lawsuit has been filed, and declined to discuss the matter further.Carbondale Town Manager Tom Baker issued an official statement Friday that the town respects the jurys decision in the trial of local resident Steve Horn.Baker also noted that Dally has filed a letter preserving Horns right to sue the town, and added, If the civil claim goes forward, it would be in a different court and a different arena, and it would therefore be inappropriate for the Town to make further comment.
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