Taser case ends with 1 minor conviction
A man who was shot with a Taser by a Carbondale police officer during a traffic stop on Aug. 6 was cleared by a jury of the two most serious charges stemming from the event.But Steven Horn, in a trial that ended on Friday, was convicted of the relatively minor charge of running a stop sign, the traffic violation that led to his being pulled over by Officer Jose Muñoz. Horn was ordered by Judge John C. Collins to pay $65 in fines and fees.”The conviction is the same as if you had received a citation last August,” the judge told Horn. Muñoz, when asked by the judge, said the penalties included an assessment of four points against Horn’s driver’s license.”I’m very pleased,” said Horn’s attorney, Richard Dally, following the verdict by a jury of six Carbondale residents. But he added that he was not surprised.Asked if he planned to move forward with plans to sue the town for up to $250,000, Dally declined to comment except to say that “town officials refuse to talk to me” about the case. He said no civil lawsuit has been filed, and he declined to discuss the matter further.Horn, who had testified that he is planning to move away from Carbondale largely as a result of bad feelings left over from the incident, said after the verdict, “I’m very thankful that I had a jury that saw these events for what happened.”The verdict was the conclusion of a three-day trial that featured testimony by Horn, a procession of police officers and several residents who witnessed various parts of the confrontation between Muñoz and Horn.The confrontation came during a traffic stop in downtown Carbondale, after Muñoz saw Horn roll through a stop sign on his way to deliver hay bales for use in a town street party, the KDNK Blues, Brews and Barbecue. Munõz pulled Horn over, and Horn got out of his pickup truck and approached Muñoz. Muñoz then pulled out his Taser and used it against Horn. Muñoz testified that he felt threatened by Horn’s behavior so he use the Taser, a hand-held stun-gun that sends out 50,000 volts of electricity.Muñoz and one witness, Nate Towers, manager of Java Joe’s coffee shop, testified that Horn was acting aggressively, waving his arms and yelling at the officer. And Muñoz maintained that Horn got out of his vehicle and would not return to it, despite the officer’s repeated demands do so.Several witnesses for the defense, however, testified that Horn never acted aggressively toward Muñoz and that Horn was being friendly, if somewhat confused, about why Muñoz was acting angry and frightened throughout the encounter.”We support the police department and their procedures,” said juror Alisa Tillung, but “we feel some of the actions of the police officer were not warranted in this case.””Carbondale is a small community,” added jury foreman Eric Montemayor, where “things are done in a certain way” and where citizens should reasonably feel able to approach a police officer whom they know by name, even during an official contact, without fear of being harmed.
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