One of two brothers accused of severely beating a U.S. Park Police officer in August in Rock Creek Park could not have intended to murder the officer because he was too drunk to know what he was doing, the man's lawyer told a federal jury yesterday.
"He had no motive, no reason, to assault the officer," said William Garber, who is representing Jose B. Salamanca, 38, in the case stemming from the late-night Aug. 12 assault on Park Police Officer James P. Culver, 24.
Garber spoke on the first day of trial for Salamanca and his brother, Hector A. Salamanca, 35. Both men are construction workers from El Salvador with limited English skills who lived in the same block of Tuckerman Street NE. They face charges of assaulting a federal officer and assault with intent to murder.
Hector Salamanca's lawyer, Thomas Farquhar, told the jury that his client never touched Culver and should not be held responsible for what his brother did.
Garber did not dispute Farquhar's assertion that Jose Salamanca hit Culver. Instead, Garber seemed to aim at convincing the jury that his client was too intoxicated to form the specific intent to murder Culver, the most serious charge facing both men.
Criminal law generally states that voluntary intoxication is no defense for crimes of "general intent," such as assault, but juries may accept it as a defense against a charge such as attempted murder. Attempted murder carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years. A felony charge of assault on a federal officer carries a maximum penalty of five years.
Both men were connected to the crime scene by identification cards found lying on the ground. They were arrested shortly after the beating, which was vividly described by Assistant U.S. Attorney Theodore A. Shmanda.
Shmanda told the jury that Culver stopped the brothers and Jose Salamanca's girlfriend, Olinda Martinez, about 11:30 p.m. in the parking lot of Picnic Grove 13, near Glover and Military roads NW. The Salamanca brothers had been drinking beer for several hours, Shmanda said, while Martinez napped in the car.
Culver intended to tell the threesome to leave, but decided to ask the men for their car keys when he saw empty beer bottles littering the ground and realized they might be drunk, Shmanda said.
When he did, the prosecutor said, Jose Salamanca went to the car on the pretense of looking for the keys. Instead, Shmanda said, Martinez will testify that she saw her boyfriend draw a wooden club from under the driver's seat, swing around and begin hitting Culver on the head with it.
The prosecutor said that the blows cut a gash from Culver's left eye to behind his ear, severed a major artery and laid open the top of his skull. Testimony from medical personnel will show that Culver nearly choked to death on his own blood twice before he got to a hospital, Shmanda said. Culver, who is expected to testify later, is blind in his left eye as a result of the attack, Shmanda said.