Prosecutors are expected to rest their case today in a jury trial for a Rising Sun Police Department officer accused of slamming a 17-year-old girl’s head against the hood of a patrol car in November after taking her into custody at a town shopping center.
The defendant, Daniel Stickney, 37, also allegedly applied upward pressure on the teen’s arms while they were handcuffed behind her back – lifting her feet off the ground and causing her to beg for mercy.
Stickney is charged with second-degree assault and misconduct in office in connection with the incident outside Martin’s supermarket at 24 Rising Sun Town Center on Nov. 5, 2011.
On Tuesday, the first day of trial, Cecil County State’s Attorney Ellis Rollins III showed jurors store surveillance video of Stickney leading the alleged victim – Brianna Antao, now 18, of Rising Sun – out of Martin’s in handcuffs and to a patrol car parked outside the supermarket.
Stickney took Antao into custody because one of the store’s “lost prevention officers” had caught her shoplifting.
A segment of the video shows Stickney leaning Antao over the hood of a patrol car for several seconds, with her hands cuffed behind her back, while he is holding a cell phone to his ear.
And then, as Stickney moves behind her, Antao’s head appears to pound the hood and remain there briefly.
The sight and sounds caught the attention of Cecil County resident Chasidy Garvey, as she and her husband walked from their vehicle in the parking lot to the supermarket to shop.
“What attracted my attention was her feet were a foot off the ground and her face was pressed against the hood of the car,” Garvey testified Tuesday. “She was crying, saying, ‘Aww, you’re hurting me.’ Her feet were off the ground approximately a foot, swinging from side to side.”
Garvey told jurors she assumed that the man forcefully restraining the teen was an undercover police officer because, although he had her pressed her against a marked patrol car, he was clad in “street clothes,” including sweatpants.
Noting that she isn’t one to gawk, Garvey testified that she continued her walk into the store, although the incident disturbed her.
Several days later, Garvey, who is employed as a Cecil County Circuit Courthouse clerk, told coworkers what she had witnessed, she testified.
And someone – it wasn’t Garvey – relayed her story to someone in the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office, which is headquartered on the third-floor of that building.
That office launched an investigation that led to the store’s surveillance videotape, which, in turn, led to the criminal charges against Stickney.
Stickney was issued a criminal summons on March 21 and, amid the criminal case against him, he has remained on the police force. Stickney holds the Patrolman 1st Class rank.
At the time of the alleged assault, Stickney was on administrative duty with the Rising Sun Police Department, prosecutors said in court Tuesday.
Stickney had been placed on administrative duty on July 20, 2011, more than three months before the incident, and he wasn’t restored to regular law enforcement status until January – two months after it, prosecutors added.
However, the level of police power Stickney possessed at the time of the incident remained in question after the first day of the trial. Information regarding why Stickney was placed on administrative duty also wasn’t released on Tuesday.
In a pretrial motion, Cecil County State’s Attorney Ellis Rollins III asked to view Stickney’s “personnel file” so he could discern what restrictions, if any, the administrative duty placed on Stickney.
Cecil County Circuit Court Judge Keith A. Baynes closed the courtroom to the public for the rest of that motions hearing.
He did so after lawyers on both sides expressed concern that Stickney’s personnel information might have to be discussed during the hearing. Privacy laws protect information contained in personnel files.
During Tuesday’s trial, the alleged victim gave jurors her account of the incident.
Antao, who graduated from Rising Sun High School in June, testified that she had been inside Martin’s for at least two hours before the loss prevention officer collared her for shoplifting shampoo and face cream and then contacted police.
The teen acknowledged that she was under the influence of prescription painkillers while inside Martin’s, where, in addition to shoplifting, Antao bought drugs from a dealer she arranged to meet in the store’s women’s restroom.
(Antao, who has gone through rehab, told jurors that she has been opiate-free for several months.)
After the security employee caught her, Antao surreptitiously ingested the prescription painkillers she purchased in the public bathroom before police arrived to avoid drug charges, she testified. Antao estimated the number of pills to be “less than five.”
Patrolman 1st Class Richard Hardy, in uniform, and Stickney, in street clothes, met Antao and the security worker in a store office, she said. Stickney later led her away in handcuffs, she added.
“He was pulling and jerking me, so I couldn’t walk straight,” Antao testified, as in-store video footage showed Stickney and the handcuffed teen making a slightly zigzag approach to the door. “I wasn’t resisting arrest.”
On the way to the patrol car, Antao screamed profanities at Stickney, including, “This is why I (expletive) hate you Rising Sun cops,” she testified.
Stickney then stood behind Antao, pressing her against the hood of the patrol car and raising her cuffed hands toward her head.
“It got so bad, I said, ‘Please, please, stop’,” Antao said, referring to the pain in her shoulders.
All the while, Stickney was talking to someone on his cell phone, according to Antao, who estimated that she weighed 75 pounds at the time of the incident.
“He was talking to a man named Bob about a washing machine,” she testified.
When that phone called ended, Stickney seemed angry about Antao’s commotion in the background, she told jurors.
“He called me a ‘pill-popping (expletive).’ He said, ‘You need to shut the (expletive) up next time I’m on the phone,” Antao testified.
And then Stickney banged her head against the car, according to her.
“He was slamming by face against the hood of the cop car. He was using my back, my upper back (to push). My feet flew up so hard that I thought I was going to pass out and throw up,” Antao said.
Antao’s mother, Debra Montgomery, testified Tuesday that she took photos of her daughter’s facial injuries after police released Antao into her custody later that night.
“She was hurt,” Montgomery testified.
Rollins introduced those photos into evidence. Those pictures, taken over a three-day period starting Nov. 5, 2011, appear to show a bump on Antao’s forehead.
No medical attention was sought, however, Montgomery said. Nor did the teen or her family file a formal complaint about the incident with any police agency, she added.
Investigators contacted them, instead, after the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office learned about the alleged assault.
Stickney’s defense lawyers – Lawrence S. Greenberg of Baltimore and Mandeep Chhabra of Annapolis – contend that Antao was too impaired by drugs that night to grasp reality.
During defense cross-examination, Antao replied, “Some things I can’t remember because I was under the influence.”
The defense also maintains that Antao was resisting arrest and making threats, forcing Stickney to increase his effort to subdue her.
Greenberg asked Antao if she had tried to “donkey kick” Stickney, for example, and if she spit in his face. Antao responded no.
Stickney came to the Rising Sun Police Department from Philadelphia about three years ago, according to police officials.