RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - A former Oglala Sioux Tribe police officer accused of improperly using a stun gun on an intoxicated tribal member is awaiting her fate by a federal jury.
The Rapid City Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1YQi1hL ) that a jury failed to reach a verdict Friday following the three-day trial of 33-year-old Rebecca Sotherland. The jury is slated to resume deliberations on Monday.
Authorities said Sotherland last year used a Taser several times on Jeffrey Eagle Bull, who was lying on the ground. A passer-by shot video and posted it online, drawing attention to the incident that happened in Manderson.
Sotherland was fired shortly after the incident. She is charged with deprivation of constitutional rights by the use of unreasonable force by a police officer; assault with a dangerous weapon; and obstruction of a federal investigation by filing a false report of the incident.
She faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The prosecution and defense painted conflicting versions of Eagle Bull’s condition at the time Sotherland tried to put him in her police vehicle
The prosecution said Eagle Bull was so intoxicated he had passed out and had no ability to respond to Sotherland’s commands. Sotherland and her defense attorney argued Eagle Bull was “playing possum” to avoid incarceration.
The two sides also had differing interpretations as to whether Sotherland got proper training in use of the Taser.
The incident occurred Aug. 15, 2014. Sotherland was dispatched to a house in Manderson on a welfare call.
Eagle Bull, then 32, was lying in a shallow hole against the house. On a video captured by the camera Sotherland wore on her head, which was shown in court, she is seen cajoling Eagle Bull to get up and into her police vehicle. During that, she frequently used a Taser weapon on him, much of the time when he was fully stretched out on the ground.
In the 26 minutes of the video, the prosecution counted 28 Taser jolts.
In contrast, the defense asserts that Sotherland ordered Eagle Bull to get up or get in the car more than 280 times.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Koliner said Eagle Bull drank a gallon of vodka that day, and his blood alcohol content was 0.319 percent four hours after his last drink. The legal level of intoxication for drivers in South Dakota is 0.08 percent.
A Taser is to be used to immobilize people who are threats, Koliner said, “not a tool to pick someone up and get him into a car.”
Authorities have said that Eagle Bull was not seriously hurt in the incident.