Trial starts for West Virginia trooper charged in beating of teen

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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP/WSAZ) — Oct. 8:

A trial has started for a West Virginia trooper federally charged in the beating of a teenager who led authorities on a high-speed chase after rear-ending a deputy.

News outlets report prosecutors opened the deprivation of rights trial on Monday by arguing that Michael Kennedy wanted to "punish" the teen during the November arrest. Dashcam video released in January shows Kennedy at the center of a group of officers kicking, stomping on and punching the teen.

Seven law enforcement officers testified. Berkeley County sheriff's dashcam video administrator, Deputy Willy Johnson, said he alerted the sheriff to the video because "something told me it wasn't right."

Another video released Monday shows Kennedy slapping the teen. Defense attorney Craig Manford argued Kennedy was attempting to get the teen to comply.

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May 30:

A West Virginia trooper federally charged in the beating of a teenager was previously cleared of wrongdoing in the case by his department.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports a recently released West Virginia State Police internal investigation says Trooper Michael Kennedy didn't engage in criminal conduct during the November arrest of the 16-year-old.

However, Kennedy was later indicted on a charge of deprivation of rights under color of law, which describes crimes committed by on-duty police officers.

Dashcam video shows the teen driver fleeing police and crashing before being kicked, stomped on and punched by officers.

At one point, Trooper Kennedy begins kicking the suspect. Eventually they subdue him, but then Kennedy approaches the suspect and repeatedly strikes him in the face. Later, after the suspect is on his feet, Kennedy tosses him to the ground.

Two county deputies in the video were fired and later reinstated. Kennedy and Trooper Derek Walker were fired. Walker wasn't charged. Kennedy's trial is set for October.

Last month, on April 13, Berkeley County Sheriff Curtis Keller announced that deputies Austin Ennis and Chris Merson were back on the job after he attempted to fire them following the incident. Review boards sided with the deputies, however, as they were not the ones directly involved in beating the teenager.

The pursuit began after the driver rear-ended Merson’s cruiser on U.S. 11.

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March 21:

A police dashcam video released Thursday shows a West Virginia police officer kicking and punching a handcuffed teenage boy on the ground and kneeling on his shoulder during a November traffic stop.

Berkeley County Prosecutor Catie Wilkes Delligatti released the eight-minute video to The Associated Press. The teen's face is redacted in the video, taken from a sheriff's cruiser.

The video shows two officers yanking the teen through the open driver's side window to the ground, where he lands face first and is immediately placed in handcuffs. Footage shows one of the officers then kicks and stomps him several times and puts his knee on the teen's shoulder blade, pressing down with his full weight. The officer then punches the teen at least eight times.

A minute later, the teen is pulled up to his feet but remains limp as he is thrown further to the side of the road.

Gov. Jim Justice has said the incident "cast a dark shadow" on law enforcement.

Authorities originally denied media requests for the video, citing the investigation.

Troopers Michael Kennedy and Derek Walker and a sheriff's deputy were fired in January. Another deputy who was fired recently got his job back.

Kennedy, 29, of Morgantown, was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on one count of deprivation of rights under color of law — language used to describe crimes committed by police officers while on duty.

The indictment accuses Kennedy of using excessive force resulting in bodily injury.

The teen was treated at a hospital and released.

State police have said the teen was involved in a crash with a sheriff's cruiser before a pursuit ensued, his vehicle crashing again before he was apprehended. Delligatti said she couldn't release details on whether the youth was charged, saying juvenile prosecutions are sealed.

The American Civil Liberties Union's West Virginia chapter has said it would look into whether the teenager's civil liberties were violated.

"The brutality witnessed in this video is shocking but all too familiar," said Loree Stark, the West Virginia chapter's legal director, in a statement. "Law enforcement has a constitutional responsibility to avoid excessive force, and it is crucial for videos like this to come to light so that offending parties will be held accountable."

Walker also faces an excessive force lawsuit filed last year by a Charles Town attorney who says the trooper dragged his wife and slammed her to the ground in 2016 while she was talking to construction workers about a sidewalk project. State police responded to the scene when a worker allegedly backed his truck into the driver's door of her SUV in a parking lot.