BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - A jury found a former Bartlesville police officer guilty of assault and battery after nearly 45 minutes of deliberation Tuesday.
Jurors went into deliberation shortly before 4:30 p.m. Tuesday following closing arguments and more than a day of testimony in the trial of Sonya Worthington, 45, one of two former Bartlesville police officers charged for allegedly using excessive force on a hospital patient last.
Worthington now must pay a $1,000 fine but will serve no time in jail the court decided after jurors stated their verdict.
She and former officer Stacy Charles Neafus, 42, were arrested last year following a two month Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation look into allegations of official misconduct alleged to have occurred during an incident on Sept. 18, 2011 at Jane Phillips Medical Center.
According to court documents, Neafus and Worthington “willfully and unlawfully committed assault and battery” on the alleged victim when they responded to a call to aid hospital security in bringing a patient under control.
Neafus reportedly pushed the alleged victim's upper torso over a metal chair arm “with the weight of the defendant pressing” the man “who was handcuffed behind his back at the time of the defendant's actions, with force and violence."
Worthington allegedly struck the same victim and placed him in a headlock, pulled and twisted his head while he was handcuffed “with force and violence,” according to the information sheet.
Both she and Neafus entered pleas of not guilty in December last year.
During Tuesday's testimony, Worthington at the witness stand told District Attorney Kevin Buchanan she had been angry at the time of the incident. Earlier when Buchanan asked her if she had been “angry at all that night” she answered she had not been.
It was when he referred to surveillance video from the hospital room showing her leaning against the wall with her arms crossed and then gesturing throwing her arms out while yelling at the alleged victim and then “fist pumping” that Worthington made the admission.
“I was angry, but I was not angry at (the alleged victim),” she said. “I was not angry at any one person. I was angry at the situation.”
Earlier testimony by her and Officer Josh Patzkowski who had been one of the officers in the room that night said at one point after the alleged victim became obstructive, would not sit down as officers instructed him, and yelled curses and threats at Worthington, she shoved him back into his seat, placed her knee between his legs and straddled him.
Video shows her then placing him into a headlock, and then, according to Buchanan, twisting and pulling on his head. Patzkowski on the stand told the court he didn't know what happened at that point as he turned away when he saw her “get into his lap.”
“It made me feel uncomfortable seeing her climb into his lap,” he said, when questioned why he turned away.
Officer Cary Duniphin also called to the stand said he saw Worthington in the same incident approach the man after he threatened to “Come across the room and kick your (expletive)” and then stand up.
He recalled Worthington walking across the room, pushing the alleged victim back into his seat, the man squirming in his seat, Worthington slapping him, putting him into a reverse headlock and “using her weight to hold him down.”
Duniphin said she “used force necessary to control him.”
Worthington on the stand told the court she straddled the alleged victim to brace herself against his twisting motion and put her arm around his neck to keep him headbutting her, from spitting on her as he was still yelling and to prevent him from biting her as he allegedly tried.
“I am not a big person,” said the estimated 115-pound Worthington. “I just did what I had to do.”
In his closing arguments on Tuesday, Buchanan told the jury Worthington's case is not one of her trying to defend herself but rather a case of her being the aggressor.
He said though the alleged victim made threats against Worthington, he was on the other side of the room from her. It was she in her anger in reaction to his words that approached him and placed herself in harm's way, causing her to take the actions she did against the man.
Worthington's attorney, Shannon McMurray, told the jury Worthington and the other officers at the hospital on Sept. 18, 2011, did not seek to be in that situation. They were there only because the alleged victim had already become combative, possibly in large part due to the alcohol, unprescribed medications and marijuana in his system.
She said the officers called to the stand during the trial all described the man as committing many crimes in their presence but none reported Worthington's actions as crimes as those actions are procedure. The force Worthington used was adequate force, not excessive force, she said.
“The security officers and the nurses were unfazed by her actions,” McMurray told the jury. “The young man didn't even feel like he was mistreated.”