COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The former Kershaw County Sheriff's sergeant charged with a federal civil rights violation from the August 2010 beating of a handcuffed inmate told jurors Tuesday that the man refused to follow commands and was "physically aggressive." A jail house security camera caught the entire beating.
Former Sergeant Oddie Tribble took the stand to defend the 27 strikes he landed on a handcuffed Charles Shelley; a man arrested on traffic and a possession of marijuana charges at a road block outside the Camden city limits. "I was trying to get him into the detention center," Tribble said as his attorney showed a slow motion version of the surveillance recording to the jury.
For more than an hour, Tribble and his defense attorney Greg Garris went over the recording and each blow to explain Tribble's version of the events. The recording does not have audio because the jail's director Peggy Spivey testified that the cameras do not record audio.
Tribble said Shelley was "not compliant" from the time he opened the sheriff's transport van doors inside the sally port. "He told me, when we get to the detention center, don't put your [explitive] hands on me," Tribble told the jury, "I don't need your assistance in getting off this van." Tribble was the passenger in the van and was responsible for helping the 10 detainees inside the van climb out.
There's a distance of about two feet to the ground from the van's door, Tribble explained. Deputies are required to place a stool on the ground to allow handcuffed inmates to climb out. Tribble said he ordered Shelley three separate times to "get out of the van," and took his steel baton out. On the third order, Tribble told the jury that Shelley told him, "[explitive] you." "Once he jumped off the van, he yelled, 'What?'" "He jerked and said, "get the [explitive] up off me," Tribble said.
"I wanted him to move forward," Tribble testified. "Did he move forward?" Harris asked, "No, he does not," Tribble replied. The video showed Shelley step down out of the van and take two steps toward the jail's door, prosecutors argued in their opening statements. Tribble contends that Shelley remained defiant throughout the beating and that Shelley threatened Tribble.
US Attorney Tara McGregor questioned Tribble's testimony, specifically asking the former deputy about several "additions" to his version of the events inside the jail that night. Prosecutors pointed out that Tuesday's testimony was the fourth time Tribble gave statements about the beating, and several details that were never told before came out during the former deputy's testimony.
Tribble told the jury that Shelley told him more than 15 times at the jail, "Don't f-[explitive]-ing touch me," McGregor said. Tribble also told the jury that Shelley tried to kick at him at least twice, and that Shelley "jerked away from me" at least four times.
The video Tribble's defense team showed the jury was slowed down from real time, "to analyze and excuse every one of your movements," McGregor said to Tribble as he sat in the witness stand. When asked about the new details, Tribble said he did so after seeing the video so many times. "You added all those things to your testimony today, isn't that correct?" McGregor said, "After reviewing the film and seeing it all over…" Tribble ended his response.
Approximately 18 hours after the beating, Tribble gave a taped statement to State Law Enforcement Division agent Lee Blackmon. Tribble was asked about the threats Shelley made concerning the deputy's family. Blackmon asked Tribble how he "took" the threats from Shelley, "How did I take it? I didn't take it far. I look at it this way, because I don't feel he can hurt me or my family," Tribble said, "I don't have any fear towards him and what he made as far as that threat."
Closing arguments are expected this afternoon. The jury will decide whether Tribble violated Shelley's constitutional rights to be free from punishment as a prisoner, and whether the jurors believe the strikes from Tribble's baton caused bodily hard to Shelley.
If the jury finds Tribble guilty of both standards, the punishment is a felony and punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison.
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