Police brutality accusers acquitted

After two months of legal wrangling and two trials today that took a combined five hours (and even delayed a capital murder hearing), the two young adults who alleged that a police officer nearly ran over them in a crosswalk were found not guilty of the misdemeanors of which the allegedly overreacting officer had accused them.

Richard Silva was found not guilty of being drunk in public, and his fiancée, Blair Austin [seen in the photo at left with her attorney David Heilberg], was found not guilty of obstruction of justice in Charlottesville General District Court. The charges stemmed from an incident at the corner of Second Street SE and Water Street on the night of September 28 in which Charlottesville police officer Mike Flaherty, while responding to another call, came upon the couple crossing the street.

Silva, Austin, and several witnesses testified that Flaherty nearly collided with the couple, and in making his decision on Silva's case, Judge Bob Downer said he wasn't able to conclude that Silva was drunk because "there's no question that Mr. Silva was startled, as anybody would be."

As for Austin, whom Flaherty acknowledged he "shoved" while arresting Silva, Judge Downer ruled that while "her judgment was poor" in hanging onto her fiancé while Flaherty handcuffed him, he wasn't confident that "she had the intent to obstruct what the officer was doing."

"I'm happy about the outcome," says Silva, "but what saddens me is that if this were an individual who couldn't afford an attorney, he would have accepted a guilty plea. Thank God I've got a good paying job, and thank God for the witnesses."

Flaherty's actions seemed to be as much at issue as the couple's. While nobody quite agreed on how fast Flaherty was driving down Second Street (witness estimates ranged from 15 to 50 miles per hour) all agreed that the vehicle's bumper came dangerously close to Silva as he and Austin attempted to cross Water Street. Even prosecution witness Gordon Butler, a cab driver who was waiting for a fare near the back of the nearby CVS pharmacy, acknowledged that Silva acted "like he was scared or he was going to get hit."

Friends of the couple testified that Silva consumed just two to three drinks during and after his Downtown Mall birthday dinner that evening.

From the time Flaherty stopped his Jeep to the time he arrested Silva (which he says took about a minute), the officer says he observed Silva "bobbing and weaving," that he had "bloodshot, glassy eyes," that his speech was "slightly slurred," and that Silva had "puffed up his chest." The only signs of intoxication observed by other witnesses was Butler's assertion that Silva was "laughing, joking around, and being belligerent."

Despite several other witnesses who painted a vastly different picture, including multiple testimonies that Flaherty arrested Silva immediately upon exiting his police vehicle, Downer agreed that Flaherty had probable cause for an arrest, but that he wasn't "satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt" that Silva was drunk.

Prior to closing arguments, Austin's own public drunkenness charge was dismissed due to a lack of evidence, leaving only the obstruction charge. Flaherty asserted that he could hear Austin before seeing her.

"Her heels were clicking," the officer testified, "as she came up behind me."

Neither Flaherty nor any other witness testified to Austin ever touching the arresting officer. Instead, Flaherty said he had had one of the Silva's hands cuffed when he observed Austin grab her fiancé's arm. At this point, in accordance with his police training, Flaherty said he extended his open palm and "pushed her on the upper arm," and Austin fell to the ground.

Others saw the push differently.

"He put both hands on my chest, and I fell on my back," said Austin.

"He struck her," said 225-pound defense witness Chris Ryan. "I'm not a small guy, but if I'd been flat-footed, he would have knocked me down."

Shortly before the case began this morning, another drunk in public case was dispatched with a not-guilty verdict after less than five minutes of testimony. Asked after the five-hour Silva-Austin trials if she felt concerned about the level of City resources mustered for these misdemeanor cases, including the subpoena of a reporter, prosecutor Katherine Peters said, "We don't pick and choose our cases."

"Here, the police and the Commonwealth got all defensive because of all the publicity," said defense attorney Heilberg. "How do you back down from that?"

Downer, perhaps anticipating that Austin might bring a civil suit against Flaherty, noted in his ruling that he did not find fault with the way in which Flaherty got physical. "Officer Flaherty was entirely justified in reacting immediately to prevent any interference," he said.

Austin said she's not sure whether she'll sue Flaherty, but that "an apology would be nice."

Silva says the couple plans on going out to dinner to celebrate but that, "I'm going to make sure everybody counts how many drinks I have."



"I'm happy about the outcome," says Silva, "but what saddens me is that if this were an individual who couldn't afford an attorney, he would have accepted a guilty plea." Is this statement meant to imply that the Public Defender's office would not have been able to get the same results?
By the reactions stated in the article by both of the "victims," it seems they are far less outraged by the incident than most of the bloggers. Is this a reflection of individuals' attitudes towards the local police?

Sick of: I don't dispute that there are bad news cops everywhere. I just feel bad for the good cops in our community (and elsewhere) who have to deal with such negative perceptions on top of an already challenging job. I see both sides: it's incredibly frustrating to see a cop tasering a pregnant woman and it's equally frustrating to know that someone is actually telling their children to distrust police. What a sad state of affairs. I hope that if police misconduct is due to low standards that they raise the bar soon. Thanks for the discussion!

So... Flaherty is not only a liar but clearly guilty of perjury. Well done.


The answer to the distrust problem lies with the Police themselves. When the honest ones demand that the Chief step up t othe plate and get rid of the trash things will turn around. Until then they get what they deserve...diminished respect.

It is no different than a doctor who refuses to testify aginst a colleague then complains about the high cost of malpractice insurance.

But Cletus, it's too hard to recruit anybody to replace him. We'll just have to accept what we have. Now you see why the veteran seasoned officers are counting their days until retirement.

Ok so now that this has been concluded has it been mentioned why the officer was in such a rush? Were the donuts fresh out of the oven or something?

Hey Mr/Mrs/Ms Really.... I do not discriminate. I now have extreme views of all cops nationwide. Every day you pick up a newspaper another small handful of cops have been arrested in EVERY state for one thing or another. This is absolutely sickening. We used to tell our children to go to these cops when they need help. I direct my children to walk the opposite direction now when they encounter a cop.

If you doubt my word, and you want to keep up with any of this just check out www.badcopnews.com on a daily basis. It's amazing how many cops are arrested and criminally charged every month. The lowering of standards has caused it in my opinion. They will hire anybody nowadays.

Sick of ... your extreme views of the local police force make a person with a healthy dose of skepticsm like me feel sympathetic toward police. They're not all bad. In fact, most of them are really decent. Enough of the extremism.

SOTLR, I think this is a case where less is more. So many people in this country are criminals by statute that the police are busy enforcing laws that could never be criminal under the Constitution. As I told you before the problem isn't the cops per se. It's the judges that can't parse the simplest of Constitutional arguments. It's time we make judges liable both criminally and civilly for their bad judgments and erroneous reasoning. Take for example the application of so called Federal law. The Constitution (and the Supreme Court) say that the Federal govt has NO police power of any kind except in 3 very narrow and specific instances; those being treason, counterfeit and piracy. So, as a truth functionally valid argument, how is it that the federal courts enforce laws that both the Constitution and Supreme Court clearly indicate is out of their competence? It demonstrates to what length the government is willing to go to misrepresent it's authority. When THOSE problems (which you can thank Lincoln and FDR for) are addressed then the "cop problem" will become more manageable. Do you know who Josip Broz Tito was? Read the history of this mans life and you will start to see some very disturbing parallels going on here. But that should come as no surprise to you. Historically, the life cycle of a great republic is pretty much the same and it usually ends in Despotism(please feel free to consult your favorite Western Civ book or query your favorite history teacher if you think this statement is an overreaction). I grew up in a "law enforcement" family. My father was a cop, my godfather was a cop and I worked in federal law enforcement myself for a few years. But what's passing for cops today sure as hell isn't like what I experienced as a child. Let me ask you 1 last thing, if the government is animated by and enforces the will of the people why does the IRS still exist and why are we still in the middle east? So, it's an old song and dance that has been going on for thousands of years. And the reason that we're going through it again is simply because people don't learn anything from history. When you have high school seniors that can't read, write or add it doesn't come as such a surprise that we're in the debacle we're in now. Read Thomas Jefferson; he told us all what would happen if we got fat, lazy and uninterested. And I think you would have to agree that description exemplifies a large portion of Americans. Of course the fact that most lawyers are GLARINGLY uneducated in basic logic doesn't help either.... but that is for another day.

information superhighway, these officers are not in the press nor are they participating in this blog. Do you really feel that it is fair to use their names and not yours? This reminds me of "poisoned pen letters" and is probably just as harmful. Let's cut this out. BTW, you seem to have a lot of contact with the police. Why?

CTV, Like I said... fat, lazy and uninterested.

GA Peachsack, many thanks for your kind words but CTV makes my point better than I could. CTV is a perfect example of why we're in trouble. If this person can't spend the 20 seconds it takes to read my post without complaint or distraction how could s/he possibly be competent to comment on anything of any weight or merit?

Well, obviously you can! :)

From the article:

Asked after the five-hour Silva-Austin trials if she felt concerned about the level of City resources mustered for these misdemeanor cases, including the subpoena of a reporter, prosecutor Katherine Peters said, ¢Ã¢â??¬Ã?â??We don't pick and choose our cases.¢Ã¢â??¬

What the hell does that mean? The prosecuters office decides to prosecute or not every single day. They study the evidence and go forward or drop the charges. They also put things on a step docket whereby they keep posponing the trial for say a year and if the defendant stays out of trouble they drop the charges... sort of a Probation before Judgment.. this is used often in misdemeanor cases to save court costs and to let first time offenders and iffy cases have a second chance. This Prosecuters office is also very very politically connected. If you look at the "deals" they make or don't make based on which rich developers property was robbed you will see the influences that conncetion make on the justice in this town.

I can tell you what my attitude towards the local police is. They are no better or worse than the police anywhere else. Having said that, let me remind you of what took place in New York a few years back. A defendant claimed he was taken in a restroom and impaled with a broomstick by 4 or 5 detectives. The detectives went on national TV snickering and laughing about it and publicly calling the defendant a liar. This went on for about 30 days until one of the detectives just couldn't take it any longer. He turned state's evidence and confirmed the defendant was talling the truth. The point of this being, how many times does a cop NOT turn state's evidence? How many times is there NOT a second or third officer present to confirm the truth? It also reminds me of the North Carolina trooper who had arrived at the scene of a traffic stop to back up a county deputy. The trooper's dash cam was running and recorded the deputy beating 3 or 4 subjects with a nightstick that were already laying face down on the ground and handcuffed. The trooper turned the video tape in and refused to lie for the deputy. How many troopers would do exactly the opposite? In closing, just because a person is wearing a badge and gun doesn't mean you can trust them any more than the next person. That's my attitude towards the local police. Everybody else is welcome to worship the ground the police walk on if they choose to do so.

"In closing, just because a person is wearing a badge and gun doesn't mean you can trust them..." and it doesn't mean you can cuss 'em either.

I'd just like to give a shout out to my children's former Guardian Ad Litim, Mr. David Hielburg, who obviously did a thorough job defending this young couple who's night out turned into a night from hell.

Thank you to the Hook for reporting this case. Remember that the police officers work for us and we pay their salary. If the officer's don't abide by the laws themselves, the public will take notice.

And you the public remember, the actions of one does not represent all, and the majority of officers in this city are here to be public servants and to help you. Majority. Unfortunately , not all.

I have a great idea. If you have interacted with an officer you thought was great or efficient or just okay, post up his name with a vote up. If you have run across and Officer that you felt was unfair, unjust, outside the law, or just an idiot in general, just post his name with a vote no. NO it might not make a difference, but if you call and you read the badge name, wouldn't' you like to know if you are getting someone voted good or bad, and maybe just in a inauspicious gray zone?
go ahead. lets list them for the sake of news.

Hiawatha Green. is he still an officer? I like him vote ^
Eric Penneman? I cant spell the last name, but a good cop.vote ^
Det. D.J. Harris I've put my life in his hands vote^
Eric Presser he is a stalker I don t care if he sees this.vote v
Ogletree he's good too. fair. takes down facts and notes.vote ^
Waffle retired , finally, he had to sit down to take a report. He definitely wasn't gonna chase anyone. vote ~ indifferent

anyone else?


Sorry but I'd say you are out of bound with your post. Can you say the same thing with less words next time? You're almost as long as the article. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Information Highway, I can list a small handful of decent honest hard working officers. The rest have retired and moved on. I have used this example before, and I will use it again. When a cop goes to work in the morning and his supervisor is a person who off-duty led his own department on a high speed pursuit wrecking his own personal car (and still employed to this day), what message does this send to the troops he supervises? Maybe, "Do as you please, we simply don't care and we will look out for each other if you screw up!" Could it perhaps send the message "Right is right, wrong is wrong, except we are cops and we shall do as we please!"

Reckless, David and his wife were instrumental in having a loose cannon removed from a local school too. Not sure if you knew about this or not. While the school administration worshipped the ground thias loose cannon walked on, the parents were ready to hang him from the nearest tree. I will never understand why the school administration endorsed a loose cannon who felt the Constitution didn't exist. And a loose cannon who felt underage juveniles, a/k/a students, had no rights whatsoever when he was present and confronting them.

Cletus, high school seniors that can't read, write or add? Take a look at some of the incident reports on file in police departments and you will know where some of them work now. :)

Crooked lying thieving cops is a very important issue in this community. I wish you guys and girls would can the trash talk and discuss the issue rather than insult each other. OK? Otherwise I will get Flaherty to knock all of you on your butts! :)

An apology? I hope Silva and Austin don't hold their breath on this! I suspect the only apology either of them will get is monetary damages in a civil suit.

And now they have to go through the motions and expense of having these charges expunged from their criminal records. At least Silva will with the sensitive nature of his career. And the commonwealth WILL oppose these expungements of records most likely.

I'm glad this stink is over somewhat. But the problem still hasn't been fixed, and probably won't be fixed.

"Thank God I've got a good paying job, and thank God for the witnesses".¢Ã¢â??¬
Otherwise for certain, they would have lost the cases. I know this. The officer would, and did lie. There was NO CAUSE for his irrationale behavior. Just a bully with a badge and a gun. Like so many of his fellow officers.
And now what? If Silva and Austin don't bring forth a civil suit, it's just business as usual, the bullying and temper tantrums will continue.
Thank God for the good paying job.
For the priviledge of being the victim of this blantant act of physicial abuse and bullying, it probably cost them at least $5000.00 in attorney fees, time lost from work, and untold amounts of mental anguish. And on goes the bully Flaherty, shover of pregnant women, arrestor of frightened persons he almost ran over with his car.
Please sue the city Austin and Silva. It needs to be done...

Sick Of The Local Rambos -

You should be ashamed of your comments here. I guess you are and that's why you don't list your name. Yes some cops are bad. Reality... some lawyers, some doctors... are too. Holier than thou attitude you've got there... sounds like you need to be medicated for a little anxiety issue. It's not always a conspiracy. If you screw up at work, maybe a couple people find out. If a cop screws up... It's in the Hook.

I probably know as much as you about some of the shame over the years that have pleagued our local departments. I look past it and do the right thing by trying to help the Community rebound and team up with the cops to get the "bad guys".


The patrol officers in this area ARE video taped. Cameras are in all their cars like the one that was apparently was on when the guy was hit in the wheel chair. Video cameras are not a bad thing if you have nothing to hide. Having them on the downtown mall should be a minor deal and a major deterent for crime. get over it... new day and age... a lot of people are just flat out mean anymore. some cops included. Officer Davis, who I know personally, does not fit this catagory. The city cop in question... I have heard he's not always in a good mood lets say... We should at least respect the position... if not the man. Maybe I was just raised that way. Cops around here are not respected... maybe they would be better cops if we were better citizens?

local watcher-

I would want to procecute bad guys even if they are cops. That goes without saying. At any rate, your writings give away your identity... and you have a right to be bitter.

Haven't been following this before, and so don't know all the viewpoints of the respective posters but ...

Sick of the Local Rambos' comments (at least the last two)are right on!

And how true that, had these folks been poor and had to resort to the public defender's office, the attorney almost certainly would have worked out a plea, NEVER would have gone to bat against an officer like that. (Just look at the P.D.'s rush to plead in the bombless bomb case, for example). Mr. Silva, thank you for being so aware of the significance and importance of what this symbolizes. You are so right.

Daggone right I'm right on! I've been around city and county cops for the last 40 years. I know the good, the bad and the ugly. If only the public knew 10% of what I know they would cringe when hearing the word COP in any discussion!

By the way, here's what happens when a cop crosses the "thin blue line" and decides to testify against another cop. They might find themselves dead.


A Chicago police officer who was already in legal trouble was arrested Wednesday on federal charges for allegedly planning the murder-for-hire of a former fellow police officer.

Authorities say Jerome Finnigan, 44, was plotting the murder of an officer who was a potential witness against him in an ongoing federal investigation and a pending state criminal prosecution.

Federal agents arrested Finnigan outside his home on the city's Southwest Side and then searched the house. They say he did not resist arrest.

Finnigan was assigned to the elite Special Operations Section of the Chicago Police Department. He was one of six members of that unit arrested in 2006 for allegedly using their badges to shake down residents for cash and other items. He was suspended from the force after state charges were filed in that case.

According to the new complaint against him, Finnigan first talked about the murder-for-hire plot in July, 2007, with another police officer who then began cooperating with law enforcement.

more... http://cbs2chicago.com/topstories/jerome.finnigan.chicago.2.340218.html

Hey, WTF

Would you "team up with the cops to get the 'bad guys'" if the bad guys -- as they clearly are on occasion -- are the cops themselves? Don't get that feeling from your post. Sure, there are bad in any profession. But with cops, there is a chief and other superiors there to help clip the bad cops (a little "retraining" perhaps), but unfortunately, the reverse often happens -- they have the power and apparently (and somewhat mystifyingly) the courtroom credibility to get by with what they do, no questions asked.

Local watcher, the police have no expectation of privacy in public(just like anyone else). If the chief is so hot and horny to put up cameras I suggest the citizenry record via video EVERYTHING the police do. Since there are clearly some problems with the local police force I see no reason that the police shouldn't be videotaped doing .... well... everything. That's just simple reciprocity. If the chief is going to make the case that no one has any expectation of privacy in public (which certainly makes sense) then I see no reason why the police shouldn't be recorded and that information used to prosecute officers who choose to step outside the law. What's good for the goose is good for the gander right? If you have a camcorder... use it!

WTF2, dude.. you seriously need to examine your post for logical continuity.

quote WTF2 >> "Sick Of The Local Rambos - You should be ashamed of your comments here. I guess you are and that's why you don't list your name."

WTF2, I don't see you listing your name. Unless your parents had a warped sense of humor and WTF2 is on your birth certificate. If you've a friend of Officer Davis and you know so much about him, list your name.