Jury finds St. Paul man guilty of assaulting police officer
- Article by: CHAO XIONG
- Star Tribune
- July 26, 2013 - 11:21 PM
A St. Paul man was convicted Friday night of punching and kicking a police officer so severely that she still suffers near-constant migraines and double vision three years later.
The jury was presented with two wildly different stories of how St. Paul police officer Felicia Reilly suffered her injuries in 2010, but after about five hours of deliberation, the jury convicted Thomas J. Swenson on all three counts against him.
Swenson’s attorney, Seamus Mahoney, told jurors during closing arguments Friday that Reilly tripped and fell against a door jamb, injuring herself.
But Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Cory Tennison said Swenson punched and kicked Reilly multiple times when the officer responded to a 911 hang-up at the home where Swenson lived with his parents.
Reilly, 56, continues to suffer because Swenson beat her, Tennison told the jury.
“Every day is a sick day,” Tennison said during his closing arguments. “He took a part of her. She’s not the same.”
According to charges against Swenson, 35, and testimony this week, a 911 hang-up call came from the Swenson home around 10 a.m. on March 24, 2010.
Reilly arrived alone at the home in the 1600 block of Birmingham Street. She entered the home, and Swenson’s mother said that he was threatening them, drinking and had stopped taking medication for his bipolar disorder.
Swenson allegedly ignored Reilly’s orders to remove his hands from his pockets, yelled at her and punched her several times. The two scuffled, and Reilly shot her Taser at him and used chemical spray on him.
Tennison alleged that Swenson then kicked Reilly in the back of her head several times and was uncontrollable, pulling out the Taser prongs at one point as if they had no effect on him. A second officer eventually arrived and also shot Swenson with a Taser.
Mahoney’s defense has rested on the possibility that Reilly tripped during the incident and injured herself, a story Swenson’s parents corroborated in testimony at trial. Tennison tried to debunk that theory by telling jurors that the parents had not told that story until trial, and were working in concert to save their son.
Mahoney didn’t deny that Reilly suffered serious injuries, but raised questions about the veracity of her story. There was “arrogance” in Reilly’s decision to enter the home alone when the best practice is to wait for a second officer, who was en route, Mahoney said.
“She screwed that up,” he said, contending that she had a stake in displacing blame for her injuries. “She should’ve waited for the other cop.”
Swenson hadn’t committed a crime when Reilly arrived and tried to arrest him, going after him like a “pit bull,” Mahoney said.
“He hadn’t committed a crime as far as we know,” he said. “She’s created this situation.”
Swenson is charged with first-degree assault, fourth-degree assault and obstructing the legal process.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708
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