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The following article was printed in the Peoria Journal Star on Thursday, November 4, 2010.

Victory for PB&PA Labor Committee Member – Peoria Officer Andrew Smith

PEORIA – November 4, 2010

A Peoria County jury on Wednesday acquitted a Peoria police officer accused of overstepping regulations and beating a man after a traffic stop more than two years ago. Several police officers filled the second-floor courtroom to hear the verdict for Peoria police officer Andrew Smith. PB&PA Director and Chief Legal Counsel Sean Smoot was also present. When Circuit Judge Glenn Collier read the first not guilty on the charge of official misconduct, there was an audible gasp of relief and several pumped their fists in joy. Several officers patted each other on the back.

Smith was clearly relieved. Members of his family wiped tears from their eyes as jurors left the courtroom. Smith expressed his deep gratitude for the support he received from his fellow officers and his Union. He was represented at trial by PBLC - Legal Defense Fund attorney, Robert Kuzas of Chicago. Officer Smith specifically thanked Kuzas and PBLC Staff Attorney Shane Voyles, who represented him during the department’s investigation. The verdict now means that Smith, who has been on unpaid leave since his arrest in March 2009, will be back on the job with full back pay.

Smoot said City Hall had been called within minutes of the verdict and he expected Smith to be reinstated immediately. The jury’s verdict was read at about 1:30 in the afternoon. Smith was returned to paid duty status before 5 o’clock. Two more officers, Gerald Suelter and Jeremy Layman, have yet to go to trial.

Like Smith, they too face official misconduct charges in connection with the May 3, 2008, traffic stop at the foot of the Abington Street hill where convicted drug dealer Bryce Scott was arrested. The sole issue was whether Smith and by extension the other officers acted properly or whether they used excessive force. Evidence wrapped up in one day and both sides gave spirited closing arguments Wednesday morning. After receiving the case, the jury of five women and seven men immediately asked to see video taken from another officer dashboard camera which showed the melee between Bryce Scott and several officers. The jury deliberated for approximately one hour before returning not guilty verdicts on all counts. The video clearly shows Andrew Smith applying foot strikes and another officer struggling with Scott during the arrest. However, the footage doesn’t show what is happening on the ground as the hood of the squad car blocks that from the camera. Smith and several other officers maintain Scott wasresisting arrest and wouldn’t comply with orders to be handcuffed. Prosecutors claimed Scott was compliant and therefore, any use of force was improper.

Smoot said the verdict showed the charges were unsubstantiated and he urged State’s Attorney Kevin Lyons to drop the pending cases against the other officers involved in the case. After the trial Smoot told reporters, “Today the jury did the reasonable thing . . . the right thing. It’s time for State’s Attorney Kevin Lyons to do the reasonable and right thing too. He should dismiss the remaining charges against Officers Suelter and Layman immediately.”
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