ORANGE COUNTY, Va. (WUSA9) – Although experts say dash cam video doesn’t prove Stuart Fitzgerald committed any crime – or explain why a deputy threw him onto a highway – he could face more than 15 years in prison.
The audio is missing and images from other law enforcement cameras on the scene were never reviewed by investigators.
“I started screaming ’cause I was thinking he’s probably gonna, I was thinking something bad’s gonna happen,” says 53-year-old Fitzgerald of Waldorf, Md. “That’s when I started thinking about my boy and my wife and was thinking, am I gonna make it back home?”
After throwing Fizgerald to the ground and shackling him, authorities arrested him for felony assault on the two responding officers. The officers were not investigated for misconduct.
The WUSA9 investigation found footage from several other cameras either wasn’t taken, wasn’t collected by investigators, or is missing.
Dash cam video from May 26, 2014 shows an Orange County, Virginia deputy throwing Fitzgerald onto a four lane highway, but the camera is missing audio because of what the sheriff’s department calls a malfunction.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department tape also shows the edge of Fitzgerald’s head repeatedly hitting the hood of the cruiser, which the deputy said Fitzgerald did himself, intentionally.
Fitzgerald said he doesn’t clearly remember that part, but hospital records show his face was bloodied and he suffered a chipped tooth.
Raw Video: Deputy throws driver onto highway
“I wish I had sound,” said former FBI Assistant Director and current President of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense League, Ron Hosko while analyzing the video. “I would have questions about why we ended up on the ground.”
“If he was absolutely handcuffed what was the purpose of the tackle,” Hosko asked.
Although there is no audio during the entire confrontation, about 25 minutes later, audio returns.
Over modulated audio is continuously recorded on the same dash cam for several hours.
Hosko said the video also does not provide proof Fitzgerald assaulted the officer.
“I definitely was not,” Fitzgerald said. “Cause, I’m not a fool. I’m not going to resist. I’m not going to fight ’em – I know better than that.”
Orange County Sheriff Mark Amos would not discuss the charges against Fitzgerald because of pending charges, but defended throwing the man onto the highway.
“Never been an issue because of use of force,” Amos said when questioned whether the agency investigated the deputy for excessive force. “There was never a complaint.”
Six other cameras, assigned to other officers who responded – that should have been at the scene – did not record video or audio of the confrontation according to the agency.
Fitzgerald was pulled over for “flashing his high beams at me” according to a criminal complaint charging him with three felonies.
Fitzgerald didn’t have a license and when the deputy asked him to sign, he refused.
“I asked him to step out of the car, but (sic) locked the door,” the deputies swears in the complaint. “I had to physically remove him out of the car.”
The video shows the door opening less than two seconds after the officer’s first attempt, and shows Fitzgerald getting out with the officer having one hand on him.
Orange County officials had originally claimed that the video WUSA9 reviewed contained the only images from the scene.
Since WUSA9 identified six other cameras, the agency has acknowledged finding additional images and the separate Town of Orange Police Dept. has acknowledged that of the four cameras it had at the scene at least one dash cam recorded video.
The agencies have not released the additional images identified in response to our repeated inquiries – nearly a year after the incident.
Gordonsville, Va. Police also responded, but the officer required by policy to wear a body camera was not wearing it according to the Police Chief.
The agency said officers were not routinely wearing them at the time because they were malfunctioning. They have since been replaced with new cameras.
According to the criminal complaint, “Fitzgerald struggled with officers until officers had to place him on the ground and restrained him.”
Fitzgerald said, he wasn’t fighting the officers, but was screaming in pain as the officer twisted his wrist and tightened the handcuffs.
“He kept doing it, clicking, clicking…so I hollered,” Fitzgerald said. “The third time I hollered, he grabbed my neck and threw me out on the street.”
Fitzgerald had been wearing a tuxedo, returning to his Waldorf home from Charlottesville where he had been on business before he found himself handcuffed and shackled in Orange County.
“I’m like, assault, here, what is going on?” Fitzgerald said. “I’m coming from this event, why am I sitting in this car being, talking about being charged for assault, some kind of felony. I’ve never done any of that.”
Records show an arrest history going back to 1993 including simple assault, burglary, and drug possession, but our review didn’t identify any convictions.
A former Marine, he acknowledges drugs were a former demon in his life, but he said he’s clean now and hospital and police records of the Orange County incident show no indication he was under the influence.
“I turned my life over to Christ and been clean since,” Fitzgerald said.
“I am not at liberty to lay out the facts of the case prior to court as we do not want to try this case in the media,” said Sheriff Amos in a statement. “I am confident that, at the end of the testimony for the trial, citizens of Orange County will be certain that the actions of our deputy were reasonable under the circumstances.”
He explained the missing audio as malfunctioning equipment.
“At that time, we determined that the problem with the audio resided with the audio transmitter cradle and ordered the replacement part,” Amos said. “We received the replacement cradle and repaired the unit on July 22, 2014.”
Richmond attorney Steven Benjamin with the National Association of Criminal Defense lawyers said not only does the video not show Fitzgerald assaulting police it raises questions as to whether police assaulted Fitzgerald.
“I didn’t see any movement or gesture that would indicate taking him down to the ground was necessary,” Benjamin said. “Suddenly two people just went down.”
Charged with three felonies, including assaulting police, the man thrown to the highway is living in fear.
“I mean, getting convicted of something I didn’t even do,” Fitzgerald said.
Since our inquiry authorities acknowledge finding additional recordings and the Orange County deputy has left the department.
The agency won’t tell us why he left the agency and we couldn’t reach the officer for comment.
If convicted, Fitzgerald could face more than 15 years in prison based on his word versus two officers who claim they were the ones assaulted.
Fitzgerald will have his first appearance in court on April 10th.
After he was arrested, Fitzgerald spent five weeks in jail before his court appointed attorney asked for a bond hearing.
His current attorney, who was unaware of some of many of our findings, has been temporarily suspended by the state bar eight times, including while representing Fitzgerald, for not meeting administrative licensing requirements, according to a Bar official.