McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

April 5, 2013

DA to appeal McAlester Police tasing case

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — Attorneys say they will appeal a dismissed charge against a McAlester Police officer taped tasing a handcuffed woman.

The appeal is set to be filed early next week after charges were dismissed against McAlester officer Sterling Taylor-Santino taped tasing a handcuffed woman, while she was in police custody, according to District 17 Assistant District Attorney Johnny Loard.

McAlester Police Officer Sterling Taylor-Santino’s felony charge was dismissed Monday in Pittsburg County District Court by Special Judge Tim Mills following a preliminary hearing. Mills ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to order the officer over for trial.

After the ruling Loard said he would appeal the ruling but needed to confer on the matter.

On Friday Loard said his office will be appealing the case, although it won’t be filed until early next week.

The court action stems from an incident captured on a June 24, Pittsburg County Justice Center video.

In the video Taylor-Santino tased Nakina Williams in the chest, at point-blank range, while her hands are cuffed behind her. She was in custody at the Pittsburg County Criminal Justice Center at the time of the incident.

Just before she was tased, Williams appears to spit at the officer.

After the tasing Williams was given a 10-year suspended sentence for felony assault and battery on a police officer, public intoxication and expectorating on a police officer, according to court records.

Then in October Taylor-Santino was charged in Pittsburg County District Court with felony assault and battery against Williams.

Since the felony charge Taylor-Santino has been suspended from duty on the police force. Now with charge dismissed, he is now set to return to work as soon as possible, according to Police Chief Jim Lyles.

“I think the judge made the right decision, we will have (Taylor-Santino) scheduled to full duty immediately,” Lyles said.

“We need the help.”

Meanwhile, back in October after the felony charge was filed against Taylor Santino, William’s filed a civil suit in federal court seeking more than $1 million against Taylor-Santino, the city of McAlester and Lyles.

 William’s attorney Jeremy Beaver said Friday that although they are disappointed with the judges decision to dismiss the charges the civil case will still proceed.

“We are disappointed in the judge's ruling. It should be left to a jury to decide if defendant Taylor was justified in shooting Ms. Williams with his Taser, Beaver said.

“Excessive force by definition can never be justified. His own police department determined that he used excessive force and (Taylor-Santino) was suspended for it,” he said.

“If the police can come to the conclusion that he was unjustified than certainly we believe any reasonable juror could.”

Taylor- Santino and his attorneys Susan Knight and Stacey Felkner could be not reached for comment by presstime time today.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.