McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

December 11, 2012

Motion to dismiss filed for officer filmed tazing handcuffed woman

Defense attorneys for McAlester officer filmed tasing a handcuffed woman have filed motions to dismiss the felony charge

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — Defense attorneys for a McAlester officer filmed tasing a handcuffed woman have filed motions to dismiss the felony charge against him and to stay a civil suit filed in federal court filed by the woman.

The court action stems from an incident captured on a June 24 police video that can be viewed at www.mcalesternews.com.

In the video, McAlester Police Officer Sterling Taylor-Santino tases Nakina Williams in the chest, at point-blank range, while her hands are cuffed behind her. She appears to have spit at him before being tased while she was in custody at the Pittsburg County Jail.

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.

In October, Taylor was charged in Pittsburg County District Court with felony assault and battery against Williams, of Muskogee.

Taylor was named in the charge as Sterling Taylor-Santino, according to court documents.

Weeks after the felony charge was filed, Williams filed a civil suit in federal court seeking more than $1 million against Taylor, the city of McAlester and Jim Lyles, McAlester chief of police.

William’s civil suit claims her civil and constitutional rights were violated.

“The use of force used by Taylor, in shooting Williams with a Taser while she was handcuffed, constitutes an unreasonable and excessive use of force in violation of (her) constitutional rights as guaranteed by the United States Constitution and Amendments,” the suit alleges.

Meanwhile, the motion filed Tuesday in Pittsburg County Court by attorney Stacey Haws Felkner of Manchester & Knight in Oklahoma City, asks the court to dismiss the felony charge against Taylor because the information used to charge Taylor is allegedly defective.

The motion states the information doesn’t prove the Taser is a dangerous weapon or that Taylor intended to do bodily harm to Williams.

The motion alleges the Taylor “used the Taser in the manner in which (it) was intended to be used.

Therefore the charge of assault with dangerous weapon should be dismissed.”

The motion also states that the use of a Taser is not unconstitutional when used to compel obedience by inmates.

According to the motion, Taylor was trained that Tasers were an acceptable means of controlling a dangerous or violent subject.

And the motion states that the officer’s intent in using the Taser was to prevent Williams from continuing to spit at him or others, “in other words, control her behavior,” rather than injure her. “In short, he used the Taser in the manner it was designed to be used.”

And there is no evidence that Taylor intended to injure Williams, according to the motion.

“While it can certainly be argued that (Taylor) was in error as to whether this was an appropriate circumstance to deploy the Taser, the motion states, “There is no evidence that he acted with an intent to injure any person.”

Taylor’s defense attorneys also filed a motion to stay or stop the civil case filed by Williams.

The motion alleges that Taylor retains the right to remain silent regarding the criminal charges and testifying in the civil case would be unfair because the testimony could be used against him in the criminal case.

Jeremy Beaver, attorney for Nakina Williams, said he opposes the motion to stay the civil case against Taylor.

“Ms. Williams’ right to a trial shouldn’t be delayed just because Officer Taylor has been charged,” Beaver said.

 Beaver declined to comment on the criminal case.

Meanwhile Taylor has been put on desk duty until conclusion of the court proceedings, according to Chief Lyles.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.

For more on this story, see the print or electronic editions of the McAlester News-Capital. Click here for print edition home delivery or click here to see the Smart Edition for your computer, tablet, e-reader or smartphone.