Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

New trial granted in alleged assault by P.G. Co. police officers

Woman claims she was beaten for listening to interrogation of nephew

A federal magistrate judge has granted a new trial to a New York woman who alleged she was assaulted by two Prince George’s County police officers after she tried to listen to them interviewing her 11-year-old nephew about a stolen video game.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles B. Day ruled Monday the defense violated a pretrial stipulation that Bolarinwa Okezie suffered a head injury as a result of her arrest in April 2011. A lawyer for the officers made at least nine statements in his closing argument challenging Okezie’s injury, Day wrote.

“This tactical maneuver by the defense caused great prejudice, and is fundamentally unfair,” Day wrote.

Stephen P. Norman, Okezie’s lawyer, said his client was “ecstatic” with Day’s ruling.

“She took it extremely hard when we lost the trial,” he said. “She felt there were things done by the other side that weren’t fair.”

Stephen E. Witted of the Prince George’s County Office of Law, who represented the officers, had no comment on Day’s ruling.

However, the pretrial stipulation “vanishes” for the new trial, Day ruled, because Okezie’s lawyer was not “vigilant” in protecting the stipulation throughout the first trial, only raising the issue once while cross-examining one of the defendants.

Norman, of The Norman Law Firm in Dagsboro, Del., said his case was not dependent on the pretrial stipulation.

“I’d like to have the stipulation but I still feel the objective evidence is favorable to the plaintiff,” he said.

The new trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 10 in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. The original trial was held over five days in August.

Okezie was staying at her brother’s Laurel apartment and watching his children and hers — a total of eight — when two officers arrived to speak with her preteen nephew about a report of a stolen video game. The boy had already returned the video game by the time the officers responded to the 911 call by the game’s owner, according to court documents.

Okezie’s lawsuit alleges the officers began to “interrogate” the child outside while ordering the rest of the family to remain inside. Defense filings do not explain why the officers wanted to speak with Okezie’s nephew if the video game had been returned, and Norman said there was no investigation going on.

As the boy wrote down answers to the officers’ questions because he was “too scared to talk,” Okezie moved toward the open doorway to listen to the interrogation, the lawsuit states.

While Okezie initially obeyed their order to remain in the apartment, when she reemerged the officers “did not know whether she had come to the area with a weapon” and she refused to return to the apartment, according to court documents.

Okezie alleged the officers beat her and used a Taser or other stun-gun on her. The officers denied both allegations and said they acted in an “objectively reasonable manner” before arresting her, according to court documents.

Okezie’s original lawsuit also named Prince George’s County as a defendant, but the county was dropped in an amended complaint filed in July. In April, Day granted a defense motion to bifurcate the case.

The case is Okezie v. Officer Nicholas Leonard, et al., 8:13-cv-00168-CBD.