A jury has acquitted Denver police officer Charles Porter in the assault of Juan Vasquez, but police officials say the case remains dogged by possible perjury and legal issues.
"We know that this kid was assaulted by a Denver police officer, and we know that at least one Denver police officer committed perjury in this trial," independent police monitor Richard Rosenthal said after reviewing trial testimony.
The dilemma is untangling who jumped on 16-year-old Vasquez after a chase last April and which of three officers testifying at the trial told the truth.
The case — in which the city paid $885,000 to settle a lawsuit by Vasquez — is frustrating, Rosenthal said.
Porter, 41, a 13-year veteran of the police force, was acquitted March 12 of causing serious internal injuries by jumping on the back of Vasquez after chasing the teen because of a possible open-container violation.
Two officers came forward soon after the Vasquez arrest to say Porter had jumped on Vasquez.
At trial, Porter testified that he fell behind during the foot chase and that by the time he arrived, Officers Luis Rivera and Cameron Moerman had Vasquez on the ground and the teen was complaining he couldn't breathe.
"I don't know what happened that night. By the time I arrived, the juvenile was handcuffed and in custody," Porter testified.
Rivera and Moerman testified that they saw Porter jump on Vasquez and Rivera heard him say later the beating was "just something I do lately."
Vasquez gave conflicting testimony and seemed unsure which officer jumped on him.
When prosecutors chose to rely on testimony from two officers they assured the case would end in acquittal, said Detective Rufino Trujillo, past president of the state chapter of the National Latino Peace Officers Association.
Porter's defense successfully raised questions about the involvement of Moerman and Rivera. And with little physical evidence, a conviction depended on the jury believing the officers' testimony.
"Their credibility was in question, and you were not going to get a conviction," Trujillo said.
Neither Moerman nor Rivera blamed Porter for the beating until they talked to internal affairs investigators six days after it happened.
Denver Assistant District Attorney Doug Jackson said Moerman and Rivera were highly credible witnesses.
As for the delay, Jackson said, Moerman "didn't name Porter until he was asked to come to internal affairs, but they were hoping that Porter would own up to what he did."