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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Investigator Who Cleared Deputies Has Ties To Taser International - Attorney Has Worked In Past For Stun-Gun Maker

March 9, 2011

CINCINNATI -- After an independent investigator found no reason to charge three sheriff's deputies accused of using a stun gun to subdue a man undergoing diabetic shock during a traffic stop, some are questioning whether she was the right person for the job.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters asked Los Angeles attorney Mildred O'Linn to independently review the arrest and use of force, and the results of this investigation were released Tuesday.

O'Linn said deputies John Haynes, Matthew Wissel and Ryan Wolf acted without criminal intent because they had probable cause to believe John Harmon, of Anderson Township, was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and because he failed to comply with their orders.

But Harmon's attorney said O'Linn's background was troubling, and he questioned whether she could be truly impartial in the case.

"When you find out that she is the attorney for Taser International and one of the issues here is misuse of a Taser, you wonder how biased she is and that is disturbing," said attorney Tim Burke.

The Hamilton County sheriff's deputies attempted to stop Harmon after they spotted him driving erratically Oct. 20, 2009, at about 1:15 a.m., but they said he instead continued driving erratically for about a mile and a half.

Harmon was forcibly removed from his vehicle after he ignored deputies' requests to get out of the car and shocked seven times with a Taser, and he was taken to a hospital and treated for a dislocated shoulder and diabetic shock.

O'Linn defended her investigation and said her previous work for Taser International played no role in this case.

"If I found what I believe was criminal conduct here I would not hesitate to tell Mr. Deters to prosecute the officers," she said.

However, O'Linn admitted to News 5's Amy Wagner that she had never found evidence of criminal conduct in a case involving police officer use of a Taser.

"I don't work for Taser, I do defense work for Taser," she said. "I'm not an employee of Taser."

Harmon said he was never contacted as part of the investigation, but O'Linn said his testimony wasn't necessary because she'd read his complaint.

Deters was unavailable for an interview, but he issued a statement saying he did not believe O'Linn had a conflict of interest in the case. O'Linn agreed.

"I wouldn't consider it a conflict ever," she said.

But Harmon and his attorney stand behind their claims that the investigation was tainted.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Department investigated the matter previously and found the deputies acted improperly during the arrest, and all three were disciplined, along with their supervisor, Sgt. Barbara Stuckey.

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