A Circuit Court judge Wednesday acquitted a Prince George’s County police officer who had been charged with assaulting a college student outside the site of a fraternity party in Beltsville a little more than a year ago.
After a day and a half of testimony and arguments, Circuit Court Judge Maureen Lamasney acquitted the officer, Dominique Richardson, of second-degree assault and reckless endangerment. Richardson chose a trial before judge instead of a jury.
In announcing the verdict, Lamasney said it was clear that Richardson had “offensive physical contact” with the student, Steven Morales. But the judge said that the officer’s version of events was more convincing.
“I find that his (Richardson’s) version to be the more credible version,” Lamasney said.
Morales, now 21, testified that on Oct. 30, 2010 he was being pushed forward by a crowd of people and asked Richardson, who was moonlighting as a security guard, for help. Richardson and other officers were providing security for a fraternity party inside a warehouse, and Morales was trying to get to the party. Instead of helping him, Morales testified, Richardson slugged him in the mouth. Morales testified that the blow caused him to fall, and the back of his head struck the pavement.
Richardson testified that he saw a scuffle break out and was trying to help a woman when he saw Morales going behind him, heading toward the entrance to the party. Richardson said he used a “stiff-arm” on Morales and told him to get back, but Morales took a “swipe” at him.
The officer said Morales grabbed him and he and Morales fell to the ground. Richardson said he then struck Morales with his left hand.
After the verdict was announced, Richardson hugged defense attorney Michael Barnett. Richardson declined to comment.
Barnett said, “We’re happy about the verdict. We’re glad justice is done.”
Assistant state’s attorney Joseph Wright introduced into evidence photos of Morales taken shortly after the encounter, showing a significant amount of blood around his mouth. Morales testified that he lost a tooth as a result of the blow.
On March 5, more than four months after the incident, Richardson swore out charges against Morales. Prosecutors dropped those charges, and indicted Richardson on assault charges.
Morales was not in court for the verdict.
Terrell N. Roberts, Morales’s attorney, said: “We expect the case will be presented in a civil jury trial, and we expect to prevail.”