A year ago, Wayne Seretse McKenzie, then a graduating George Washington University law student, alleged that he was beaten and thrown into a store window by an off-duty Prince George's County police officer during an altercation outside Club Utopia in Landover.
McKenzie's allegation was one of the first in a series of publicly aired complaints against the Prince George's County Police Department during a summer marked by allegations of excessive force after the death of Ghanaian citizen Gregory Habib during an arrest in Langley Park. The Maryland state prosecutor exonerated the police in Habib's death, determining that he died accidentally when two officers fell on top of him during a struggle.
Likewise, the police department's Internal Affairs Division found McKenzie's complaint against Cpl. Edward K. Robertson "not sustained," a determination that means there is not enough credible evidence to support the allegation, police and County Attorney Michael Whalen said.
McKenzie, 31, now a prosecutor for the Kings County district attorney in Brooklyn, was acquitted in January of charges of assault and battery, disorderly conduct and using obscene language. During the trial, 10 witnesses, several of them lawyers and medical students who had accompanied McKenzie to the club, testified on his behalf, his attorney, Sanford Berman, said. The prosecution also subpoenaed four witnesses during the trial, court records show.
Berman filed a $10 million lawsuit on behalf of McKenzie last month in federal court against Robertson, another officer and the county.
"They arrested Mr. McKenzie and charged him . . . as part of their coverup for using excessive force," said Berman. "We feel that we have a very strong claim in this case."
Whalen said the county denies the allegations in the suit and has no plans to settle it out of court. "This matter will be litigated."
McKenzie said in an interview at the time that he was waiting for his brother to come out of the club about 1:30 a.m. on May 13, 1989, and that Robertson attacked him without provocation after he refused the officer's order to leave. Robertson alleged in a charging document that McKenzie became unruly and struck him with his elbow after refusing the officer's orders to leave.
McKenzie said that his nose was broken and that he suffered cuts requiring 11 stitches after Robertson struck him with a nightstick and threw him into a metal grate over a store window.