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Officer Found Not Guilty of Battery

Posted on Monday, March 01, 1999 at 12:00PM

In an immediate decision from the bench after a three hour trial, a Washoe County Justice of the Peace found Washoe County Airport Authority Officer Mike Boyd not guilty of battering an employee of a security service at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. The case arose when an employee of ITS services, Phillip Henderson, alleged that Officer Boyd placed a steak knife confiscated from a passenger against his chest and worked the tip through his shirt and a pack of cigarettes into his skin for no apparent reason. Henderson also alleged that Boyd threatened him after the incident when Henderson asked the officer not to converse with another employee at the security station.

Instead of reporting the alleged incident immediately, Henderson did not report the alleged attempted battery to his supervisor for a number of hours and failed to allege any problem on a mandatory supervisor reporting from covering just such instances. In addition, it was later discovered by the defense investigation, over the course of the next three weeks, Henderson gave multiple conflicting statements to investigators that cast substantial doubt on his story. Officer Boyd adamantly denied the activity described by Henderson had occurred at all and provided information to investigators that showed his innocence. Interestingly, the defense further discovered that another ITS employee, who witnessed the entire event, gave an entirely different version of the alleged incident which corroborated Officer Boyd’s unequivocal denials of the allegations made and further showed that not only had no battery occurred but there were no threats of any kind made thereafter.

Despite the clear flaws in the case, the Washoe County District Attorney filed misdemeanor battery charges against Officer Boyd and proceeded to trial in the matter, apparently due to the continuing demands by the alleged victim that the matter not be dropped. Pursuant to policy, the Airport Authority placed Boyd on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the case. Boyd refused to accept any consideration of a plea bargain knowing the truth would be exposed at trial.

On January 13, 1999, the case was heard in Reno Justice Court. The alleged victim, Henderson, claimed that Boyd had indeed taken the knife, placed it against his chest and pressed it hard enough to penetrate clothing and a nearly one inch thick carton of cigarettes in his pocket to his skin. Henderson was then faced by the defense with his delayed, belated and conflicting written statements and was requested to explain why, if the incident had happened as he described it, there was no initial report of it, no tear mark on his shirt, no mark of any kind found on his chest, and importantly, no pack of cigarettes turned over to investigators by him at all, much less one with a penetration tear in it. The witness could not explain the untimely reporting, the lack of marks or tears to his shirt or body and then amazingly claimed he must have thrown the pack of cigarettes away. The Court then heard from one of the investigating officers who related his concerns about the victim’s story. Another ITS employee, who was three feet away from Henderson at the time of the incident, testified that she saw the entire matter and at no time did Officer Boyd do anything to Henderson, much less engage in the activity alleged. Security Officer Deborah Cook testified that she also observed Henderson immediately after the incident and for some hours thereafter and at no time did he appear to rub his chest in pain or indicate in any manner that he had incurred any injury during his contact with Boyd. Further, she was present during conversations between Boyd and Henderson, and related that at no time did Boyd threaten Henderson. In fact, she related that it was Henderson who was belligerent and aggressive with Boyd. The evidence was then closed and brief arguments were made. Justice of the Peace Barbara Finley then immediately ruled that Officer Michael Boyd was not guilty of the offense charged, citing a complete lack of credible evidence that the incident has occurred in any manner as testified to by Phillip Henderson, which ended the matter. Officer Boyd has returned to his duties with the Airport Authority and was pleased that justice was done and his name has been cleared.

Officer Michael Boyd was represented by LDF panel attorney Mark A. Kilburn of the Law Offices of Mark A. Kilburn.

PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.