Suspended Officer Theodore J. Briseno, twice acquitted in the Rodney G. King beating, was accused Wednesday by the Los Angeles Police Department Wednesday of lacking “the integrity and forthrightness” to be on the Los Angeles force.
In her opening statement at a department Board of Rights hearing, Sgt. Corrie Malinka said she would show that Briseno lied on the witness stand at his assault trial in Simi Valley and that “the department intends to show this is not the first time he was untruthful.”
Briseno’s attorney, Greg Peterson, objected bitterly, saying the department was trying Briseno for perjury, which is not the charge against him. But Malinka was allowed to continue her outline of evidence.
Briseno, 40, is charged under Police Department rules with one count of using excessive force when he stomped on King in the 1991 beating. The Board of Rights hearing will determine whether Briseno, a nine-year veteran, gets his job back or is dismissed. The panel will also consider a 66-day suspension Briseno served in 1987 for beating a handcuffed suspect.
“The department will bring evidence forward to show that Officer Ted Briseno lacks the integrity and forthrightness to be a Los Angeles police officer,” Malinka said.
In his opening statement, Peterson predicted that the department would fail to prove wrongdoing by Briseno.
“What I’ve heard here today is insinuation,” Peterson said. “The clear evidence here must be firsthand testimony: Was Mr. King unnecessarily kicked?”
He said that the best witness to answer the question would be King himself, but that the Police Department probably does not want to call King.
Malinka’s opening statement suggested that the hearing will re-examine some of the issues raised when Briseno and three fellow white officers were tried in state and federal courts on charges relating to the beating of King, who is black.
“The department believes that, based on the testimony and actions of Officer Briseno on March 3, 1991, his misconduct and his lack of credibility, there will be a preponderance of evidence to show that he unnecessarily stomped Rodney King,” Malinka said.
The department called witnesses to enter into evidence a videotape taken by Clifford Bernard, a security guard in the neighborhood where King was beaten. Later in the day, the panel viewed the famous beating videotape shot by bystander George Holliday and heard from Holliday in person.
Asked by Briseno’s lawyer whether he thought that anything he saw that night was wrong, Holliday said, “What I remember asking myself is, what could this man have done to deserve what was going on? . . . I never got the answer.”
At the 1992 state trial in Simi Valley, Briseno testified against his fellow officers. They were acquitted on all but one count in verdicts that sparked the Los Angeles riots.
In a federal trial this year, Briseno and fired Officer Timothy Wind were acquitted of violating King’s civil rights. Sgt. Stacey C. Koon and Officer Laurence M. Powell were convicted and sentenced to 30 months each in prison.
Briseno did not testify in that trial, but prosecutors played a videotape of his state trial testimony.