10/28/2016 10:39 AM
SANDUSKY — In a local landmark case, a jury found embattled Vermilion police Officer Aaron Bolton guilty of misdemeanor assault.
The conviction stems from a problematic September 2015 arrest, when Bolton slammed a handcuffed man’s head against a police cruiser’s door.
Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Tygh Tone scheduled a sentencing hearing for Dec. 12. Bolton faces up to six months behind bars and a maximum $1,000 fine.
Jurors, however, found Bolton not guilty of two other crimes: assault, a second-degree felony; and aggravated assault, a fourth-degree felony. The latter charge was added later on in this case.
Police body cam footage, recording the incident, showed Bolton manhandling the defenseless suspect. The surveillance footage, however, didn’t fully capture Bolton punching this person in question, likely resulting in “not guilty” verdicts.
Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter — who said this is the area’s first such excessive force case involving a sworn law enforcement official he can remember since taking office in 1989 — seemed happy with the outcome.
“I think it was appropriate,” Baxter said. “There is certainly room for some reasonable doubt as to whether or not the police officer was justified in using that kind of force.”
He continued: “But the assault was clear. What he did at the car door, which was caught more fully and completely by a body camera, there is no excuse for that. It was excessive and clearly unjustified.”
Bolton’s attorney, George Gerken, offered few words.
“The jury did their job,” Gerken said. “That is what they are here to do. We respect their decision.”
When asked for comment, Bolton walked by a reporter and looked straight ahead.
Jurors deliberated for almost eight hours on Thursday. They treated each charge separately and didn’t lump the three together. In order to convict Bolton, jurors has to unanimously agree by a 12-0 decision.
Bolton, who makes about $60,000 a year from Vermilion police, remains suspended from the force as of Thursday. He’s been on paid administrative leave ever since a local grand jury indicted him back in April. It’s not known what his employment status will be going forward.