Jail video played
Full video is now available at the conclusion of the story.
FBI agent, Ohio trooper testify
CINCINNATI — Abuse of power or reasonable use of force? That’s what a jury will decide at the end of a trial, which involves three Lawrence County corrections officers and an allegedly injured jail prisoner.
On Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio in Cincinnati, attorneys for both the government and the three defendants — Jeremy S. Hanshaw, Ronald Scott Hatfield and Jason D. Mays — gave opening statements to the jury, explaining what evidence would be presented during the course of the trial, which is expected to last two weeks.
For the government, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexis Zouhary told the jurors footage from a camera in the booking area of the Lawrence County Jail would show the three defendants “repeatedly” abusing their power as corrections officers as Larry Kinstler was slammed into a wall and onto the floor while his hands were handcuffed behind his back, followed by his face being smothered while in a restraint chair and being assaulted while on a medical gurney. All of this was attempted to be covered up by false reports by Hanshaw and Mays trying to block the view of the camera, she said.
“The video is the most important piece of evidence in this case,” Zouhary said. “I want you to judge for yourself what happened in that booking room.”
She later went on to urge the jurors to use their common sense and to look at the demeanor and movements of both the prisoner and the defendants.
“Look at the defendants. Do they act like they are in danger or are they acting like they are taking out anger and frustration?” she said.
Each defendant’s attorney also gave an opening statement — Mark Collins for Hanshaw; Joshua Engel for Hatfield, who is also represented by Michael Allen; and David Thomas for Mays, who is also represented by Kathryn Wallrabenstein.
Collins said the evidence presented in the case would show that the force used by the defendants was necessary and reasonable. He also said Hanshaw would testify and tell the jury “each and every step he took,” during the incident.
“You’re going to hear why it was reasonable to take Mr. Kinstler down,” Collins said.
Collins also told the jury an opinion witness would testify to assist with helping them understand how law enforcement officers are trained to respond in certain situations.
Engel told the jury the evidence would show that the defendants “acted consistently with police practices and training,” and through another opinion witness, they would talk about “how police perceive threats that others may not appreciate,” as well as the dangers associated with the booking process.
Engel also said evidence would show that Kinstler was trying to grab Hanshaw’s utility belt while he was being restrained, as well as spitting on the officers. He said while Kinstler was on the gurney signing a release form, the officers felt threatened that he could use the pen as a weapon.
Thomas told the jury Mays “only had seconds to react for his own safety and the other officers’.”
“The evidence is going to show Jason Mays didn’t block a camera,” Thomas said. “Evidence will show he blocked a doorway.”
He also told the jury that whatever Hanshaw and Hatfield were involved in, Mays had nothing to do with, as he only used “a reasonable and moderate amount of force,” with one strike to Kinstler while he was on the gurney.
Following opening statements, the government called its first witness, FBI Special Agent Brian Carroll, who has been with the bureau for 18 years.
Carroll was assigned the case and was the main case agent following the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office’s investigation into the alleged misconduct.
During his testimony, the security footage of the incident was played.
The 30-minute-plus video showed Kinstler’s arrival into the booking area of the jail on Aug. 16, 2014. Kinstler had been transported to the jail after being arrested by the Ironton Police Department at Rally on the River. He was to be booked on a disorderly conduct charge. He was transported to the jail by Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Josh Craft.
The video, which is available on The Tribune’s website, shows the interaction between the three officers and Kinstler from the moment he entered the booking area to the time he was taken away on a medical gurney by paramedics.
Carroll said after he first viewed the video, “I determined this required further investigation by the FBI.”
Carroll also read for the jury the use of force report and incident report Hanshaw allegedly falsified.
“Larry Kinstler tried to come off of the wall during a pat down,” the use of force report read. “Kinstler was taken to the ground cutting his eyebrow. … While on the cot Kinstler tried to strike me and received one strike and was restrained.”
“On the video do you see any evidence of Larry Kinstler trying to get away from the officers?” the prosecutor asked Carroll, to which he replied no.
Also testifying Tuesday were Dawn Easterling, LCSO dispatcher, and Trooper Craft.
Both said they saw at least a portion of Kinstler’s time in the booking area at the jail and both said they were unsettled by what they saw.
Easterling said she was working an overtime shift when Kinstler was brought into the jail. She said she knew a prisoner was being brought into the jail for disorderly conduct. The dispatching area, she said, has two windows which look in on the booking area.
“I looked to see if the prisoner was as disorderly as the trooper said,” she said. “… I turned around and I saw Hanshaw shove the prisoner against the wall.”
Easterling said she saw Hanshaw push the prisoner against the wall a second time, after which the two fell to the ground. After that, she said she walked outside.
“It bothered me,” she said. “… He was handcuffed behind his back. … He was defenseless. There was nothing he could have done.”
Collins asked Easterling if she could see what Kinstler was doing with his hands while he was against the wall, to which she replied no.
Allen asked her why she didn’t file an official complaint.
“I honestly have no answer for that,” she said.
Craft testified that he brought Kinstler to the jail that night, that the man was intoxicated and cursing, but that he felt no immediate threat for his safety.
He said Kinstler slammed his head into the plastic divider in his cruiser but that medical attention wasn’t necessary.
Craft went on to describe the incident in the booking area. He said he saw the Kinstler and Hanshaw were arguing, Hanshaw push Kinstler up against the wall before taking him to the ground and hitting his head, at which time Hatfield struck Kinstler a couple of times in the rib area.
“I left the booking area in shock,” Craft said. “I didn’t know what to do. I really didn’t know how to handle the situation.”
Craft said he went back a short time later under the guise of retrieving the handcuffs Kinstler was wearing, but said he wanted to make sure the man received medical attention for his head wound.
“I didn’t expect that to happen,” Craft said. “Ten years of law enforcement and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t feel right about it.”
Zouhary asked Craft why he didn’t intervene.
“I think about that quite often,” he said.
Craft said he told his supervisor about it but was told it should be investigated by the sheriff’s office.
Collins also asked Craft if he knew whether Kinstler was trying to grab Hanshaw’s utility belt, to which he replied he did not know.
Engel asked Craft if it was possible Kinstler was trying to fight Hanshaw and push himself off the wall of the booking room and that he just didn’t see it, to which Carft replied it was possible.
On a redirect question, Zouhary asked Craft if he had ever seen an intoxicated person treated like Kinstler was treated that night.
“Never,” Craft said.
The prosecution will continue with witness testimony today and said they expect three to four witnesses to take the stand. Of those, LSCO Detective Aaron Bollinger and Larry Kinstler are expected to testify.