Friday, November 1, 2002

Officers quit, get probation in abduction

Call their crime `unorthodox'

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Two former Cincinnati police officers were sentenced Thursday to a year of probation and 40 hours of community service after they pleaded guilty to charges connected to the April abduction of a man who was later found abandoned in Mount Airy Forest.

Former Cincinnati Police Spec. Michael Mercer and former Cincinnati Police Officer Robert Litman both told Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Ann Marie Tracey that their behavior was "unorthodox" but that it was an attempt to protect the area they patrolled from criminals.

"I know that this was an unfortunate incident," Mr. Litman, 38, told the judge. "Myself and my partner were trying to keep the neighborhood safe from a known drug dealer who was standing in front of a known drug house. I am terribly sorry for what happened to (the victim) - for leaving him in the park."

Mr. Mercer, 34, apologized to his family, the Cincinnati Police Department and to the city of Cincinnati.

"I apologize ... for the stress we put upon them,'' Mr. Mercer said. "It was an unorthodox method which apparently backfired. It was meant to inconvenience a drug dealer. Instead, it ruined the careers of two very fine officers."

Both men gave prosecutors their resignations Thursday.

The two had initially faced charges of kidnapping, assault and unlawful restraint. But earlier this month they each pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of unlawful restraint, a third-degree misdemeanor. Prosecutors dismissed the other charges.

On April 13, shortly after 2:30 a.m., Courtney Evans, 22, was standing in front of a house in the 3700 block of Borden Avenue in South Cumminsville. He was later found by a different Cincinnati police officer in Mount Airy Forest, who noticed he smelled like chemical irritant. The officer took Mr. Evans to the hospital.

Mr. Evans, a convicted drug dealer who has served prison time, told authorities that Officer Litman and Spec. Mercer forced him into the rear of their patrol cruiser, threw his cell phone into a mailbox, and drove him to Mount Airy Forest. Once there, he said, he was jabbed with a night stick and sprayed with chemical irritant by the officers, who then left him in the park.

Mr. Evans, who is suing the officers in federal court for allegedly violating his civil rights, was not present in court Thursday. He was previously convicted of selling crack cocaine and served 10 months in prison in 2001 for that offense.


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