Friday, July 06, 2007

Major Mistake Free DPD: Durham Cop Arrests Then Assaults Homeless Man

Laughter erupted when [DPD deputy chief Ronald H.] Hodge said he didn't "recall that the Durham Police Department has been involved in something where we made major mistakes in the past five years." - Brianne Dopart, The Herald-Sun (June 6, 2007)

"Property dispute cited in assault case against cop" - Aisling Swift, The News & Observer (June 20, 2002)

This week's arrest of Durham police officer Michael T. Aultman stemmed from a dispute over property in which the officer handcuffed a man, beat him with a baton and pointed his service pistol at him, a prosecutor said in a hearing Wednesday.

At the prosecutor's request, District Court Judge Craig Brown added $25,000 unsecured bail to the existing $25,000 bail posted after Aultman's arrest Monday on charges of first-degree kidnapping, assault inflicting serious injury and assault by pointing a gun.

Aultman, 29, who appeared in court in bluejeans and a blue geometric print shirt, said after the hearing that he is innocent. He and his attorney, Allen Mason, would not comment further. Aultman, who has been a Durham police officer since August 1999, makes $36,369 yearly and is on paid administrative leave pending an internal investigation. His wife, Francisca, 32, used their home at 1005 Ardmore Drive as collateral for bail.

At the hearing, Assistant District Attorney Freda Black noted that Aultman is accused of abusing his position and asked that he be barred from contacting the victim, Jesse Lee Dixon Jr., 30, and his family. Dixon's mother, Mamie, said her family wants privacy. "We're all having a hard time right now," she said as she stood outside her son's home at 608 Gattis St.

Two photos of Dixon were shown at the hearing and described to Brown, who is blind. They showed Dixon's right eye swollen shut and discoloration and bruising on the bridge of his nose, where there were also dark purple and red marks. There was yellow discoloration under his eye and a 1-inch, V-shaped bloody cut under his eye. Another photo showed blood discoloring much of his eyeball.

Dixon was treated at Duke Hospital and released after the incident Friday.

During the hearing, Black said Dixon was on a street corner at 4:30 p.m. when Aultman, in uniform and on duty, pulled over in his police car. Black said Aultman repeatedly asked where his property was during a dispute with Dixon over the unspecified property. "Mr. Dixon continued to tell him he did not know what he meant," Black said.

Aultman then handcuffed him, put him in the back of his police car and drove to a secluded area at Pettigrew and Ramseur streets, where he removed Dixon from the car and beat him with his fists and police baton, Black said.

"At one point ... he took his gun out, cocked it and basically threatened the victim's life if he were ever to tell anyone what transpired," Black told the judge.

Black said Aultman then removed the handcuffs and left, while a bloodied Dixon wandered around, asking for help. Police reports show police were called at 5:03 p.m. "The victim is very fearful because he did exactly what Mr. Aultman told him not to do," Black said.
"Indictment returned against former cop" - The News & Observer (August 21, 2002)
A Durham County grand jury indicted Michael T. Aultman, a former Durham police officer arrested in June after what police described as a dispute with another man over property.

Aultman, 29, was indicted on charges of first-degree kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, inflicting serious injury, assault inflicting serious bodily injury and assault by pointing a gun.

The charges involve an alleged beating June 14. A prosecutor said it stemmed from a dispute over property in which the officer handcuffed Jesse Lee Dixon, 30, beat him with a baton and pointed his service pistol at Dixon. Photographs of the victim showed Dixon's right eye swollen shut, bruises on his nose and under his eye, and other injuries.

Aultman, who had been an officer in Carrboro and at N.C. Central University before being hired in Durham, left the force June 29, according to city records. Those records showed that before the June 14 incident, the last action against him occurred in April. Details of the incident, or whether it resulted in disciplinary action, are not public.
"Claims against city dismissed in beating" - The News & Observer (January 10, 2006)

A judge has dismissed the claims against the city of Durham filed by a man who was taken into custody and beaten by a police officer.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson dismissed Jesse Lee Dixon's suit against the city at a Monday hearing. The judge's ruling left in place the case against the officer. Dixon sued over a June 2002 incident in which authorities said former police officer Michael T. Aultman handcuffed Dixon and drove him to a spot downtown where the officer beat Dixon with a baton. He pointed his pistol at Dixon and told him to never tell what happened, authorities said.

In 2004 Aultman pleaded guilty to second-degree kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon, inflicting serious injury. He left the police force in 2002.

The city argued that it was not responsible for Aultman's behavior for several reasons, including that he was pursuing a personal dispute against Dixon. Dixon's attorney, Alex Charns, argued that before the beating, Aultman made an apparently lawful arrest with the badge, gun and handcuffs provided by the city.

Charns said he intends to appeal the ruling
"Ex-officer must pay in beating incident" - The News & Observer (January 17, 2007)

A judge ordered a former police officer who admitted handcuffing and severely beating a man over a personal beef to pay $280,000 in the 2002 incident.

The former officer, Michael Aultman, did not answer the lawsuit against him, which was filed by Jesse Dixon.

Attorneys for Dixon told Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III in a hearing Tuesday about the evidence they had against Aultman. Smith entered a default judgment against Aultman and ordered the former officer to pay $30,000 to cover medical costs and pain and suffering. Smith then ordered $250,000 in punitive damages, the most allowed by law.

In 2004, Aultman pleaded guilty to second-degree kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury in the incident. He left the police force in 2002.

One of Dixon's attorneys, Alex Charns of Durham, said Dixon was homeless at the time and Aultman had arrested him for an alleged misdemeanor. While Aultman had Dixon in handcuffs, he interrogated him and beat him. Aultman apparently thought Dixon had stolen from him.

1 comment:

Ralph Phelan said...

Well, if for some reason Hodges doesn't get to be the new Durham police chief, at least they've got a new candidate.

Michael T. Aultman would be perfect.