Former Bartlesville police officer acquitted in hospital assault case
BY LAURA SUMMERS World Correspondent
Thursday, March 07, 2013
3/07/13 at 4:02 AM
BARTLESVILLE - A Washington County jury has found a former Bartlesville police officer not guilty in an assault case involving an incident with a Jane Phillips Medical Center patient.
The four-man, two-woman jury deliberated about one hour Wednesday before returning a not guilty verdict in a 2011 misdemeanor assault and battery charge filed against Stacy Charles Neafus. Juries of six people are used in misdemeanor cases in Oklahoma.
Neafus, 43, was fired from his job with the Bartlesville Police Department following the incident in which the hospital had called for assistance from officers with a patient that allegedly had become combative.
The charge against Neafus involved a situation in which he bent the handcuffed patient across the back of a chair.
The Washington County District Attorney's Office argued the force used was more than what was reasonable or necessary in the situation. Neafus testified he was trying to avoid being spit upon by the patient when he bent him back.
Tulsa attorney Shannon McMurray, representing Neafus, noted he had been off-duty and was called in to assist with the patient arriving at the hospital about 20 minutes after another police officer.
Reviewing a surveillance videotape of the interaction between the patient and the officers, McMurray pointed out Neafus came in and out of the room five times, generally spending less than a minute in the area with the patient each time. She urged the jury to find Neafus had acted appropriately in what was an admittedly frustrating encounter with an out-of-control patient.
"You must acquit," McMurray said. "It makes sense. He acted absolutely reasonable."
Tulsa Police Sgt. Virgil Littrell - a training officer called by the defense - testified Tuesday he had reviewed documents involving the case and had looked over Bartlesville Police Department policies and determined Neafus had followed proper procedure according to the city regulations.
District Attorney Kevin Buchanan focused most of the prosecution's closing arguments in the case on the issue of spit. He questioned whether the patient really intended to spew forth saliva on Neafus, and if so, why did others in the room not hear a hocking prelude to spitting. Buchanan had urged the jury to send a message to Neafus that a police officer's authority must be used wisely.
"Officers, and rightfully so, are entitled to use force when necessary," Buchanan said. "Today what we are talking about is going beyond that. Did he go beyond what is necessary, what is reasonable? He has a right to use force. The question is did he use too much?"
Former Bartlesville officer Sonya Worthington in October was found guilty by a jury of an assault charge involving the same incident. Worthington was charged with striking the patient, placing him in a headlock, pulling and twisting his head and forcing handcuffs on him with force and violence. Special Judge John Gerkin following the jury's recommendation sentenced Worthington to a $1,000 fine.
Two other Bartlesville police officers were placed on administrative leave while the September 2011 hospital incident was reviewed by Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the city. Officer Josh Patrowski was cleared to return to work at Bartlesville Police Department. Officer Carey Duniphin was terminated by the city, but found work at Washington County Sheriff's Office.
Original Print Headline: Former Bartlesville police officer acquitted in assault
Stacy Neafus: A jury ruled that he did not use unreasonable force in an alleged 2011 assault