Jury Acquits Denver Officer Who Broke Teeth of Man By Slamming His Head Into the Pavement

Cordova_Michael.jpggenthumbIt took a jury only two hours to acquit Denver Police officer Cpl. Michael Cordova of excessive force, even though a videotape (below) of his actions breaking the teeth of John Heaney caused public outrage. Cordova faced a charge of third-degree assault after he slammed Heaney’s face into the pavement while Cordova served as a member on an undercover anti-scalping Vice unit.

Cordova charged Heaney with assault on a police officer and criminal mischief until a video showed that the charges were false.

Heaney was on his way on his bike to visit his terminally-ill mother at a nursing home when he ran a red-light. Not knowing that the men were undercover detectives, he got into a verbal exchange with the detectives and says that he knocked the Colorado Rockies hat off the head of Cordova. It went from the mundane to the medieval at that point.

Three officers proceeded to pummel Heaney, causing facial, neck, and shoulder injuries. The video shows them throwing him to the ground and Cordova pulling his head back by his hair and slamming it into the cement — breaking his teeth.

TV producer Greg Prinkey witnessed the whole attack . “He was not resisting. It was totally uncalled for.”

When Prinkey saw men beating Heaney, he ran in to stop the fight. The officers then yelled, “Hey, we’re cops! Get the (expletive) out of here!”

Prinkey correctly notes that “Had I not been rolling the camera, and no one else was rolling the camera, it might have just been swept under the rug.” Indeed, like many such police abuse cases, the officers charged the man with assaulting them — in this case producing a pair of broken sunglasses from one officer as evidence.

Officers Cordova and James Costigan both denied under oath knowing anything about the broken teeth and denied slamming his head into the cement. Cordova testified, “I have not a clue.” That is an understatement.

For the video, click here or here The television crew was adamant that the assault on Cordova was excessive and uncalled for. Moreover, they contradicted the argument of the defense that the sound on the tape was not that of Heaney’s teeth breaking but that of a bat hitting a ball in the stadium.

Cordova did not take the stand in his own defense during the trial.

Notably, the prosecution did not charge Cordova with the false statements and false charge against Heaney at the time of his arrest and some questioned the vigor of the efforts by both prosecutors and police in prosecuting the case. Heaney’s lawyer Lonn Heymann said “The police department and the DA have not given up on the belief that Heaney was somehow responsible. That’s why they were half-hearted in their prosecution of this case. The other officers were never investigated, nor was the police officer’s dishonesty during Heaney’s criminal case. The prosecution simply did not use powerful evidence against Cordova that was available, including proof that the police story was fabricated.”

Heaney may get his own chance to prove the case in his civil lawsuit against Cordova and the police department, here.

The case has some comparisons to the body slam case out of the New York where the officer was also acquitted, here.
For the full story, click here.

42 thoughts on “Jury Acquits Denver Officer Who Broke Teeth of Man By Slamming His Head Into the Pavement

  1. What does it take for people to get outraged by the antics of these cops who are out of control from the beat cop all the way up to the Chief. I hope the civil suit is successful and the pocket book strain on the city and department will convince them to clean up their act. The prosecutor who did not use his/her best efforts should also be disciplined.

  2. Eventually this kind of behavior will be officially condoned.

    Oh, they let this guy go? Then what I should have said was:

    This kind of behavior might as well be officially condoned if the FELON who committed the crime gets a walk simply because of his badge. Screw that. Blatant injustice. I hope Heaney leaves the Denver PD and the directly offending officers so broke they can’t pay attention. Not that they were paying attention to the right things to begin with obviously.

    I had been considering moving to Denver.

    Now, not so much.

  3. I don’t think most people with white skin on juries are making police brutality/atrocity decisions based on the information presented at trial. White people believe that the police are there to protect them, so the make public poliicy decisions to support police regardless of the evidence presented at trial.

    This is why it is so important for prosecutors to select an all-white jury, such as the one that tried Esteban Carpio (even though Providence, Rhode Island is over 50% Black and Latino). By getting an all-white jury AND favorable evidentiary decisions from the judge, prosecutors are more like (practically guaranteed) to get a conviction, regardless of the atrocities that police are shown to have committed during the arrest and questioning.

    Of course many or most white people will disagree with what I’ve said here, but they’ll also agree that if police beat or electrically shocked an arrestee, then the arrestee “probably got what he deserved”. And white juries are unwilling to convict or punish police for their behavior when the believe that the defendant/victim “probably got what he deserved.”

    What this means is that many or most white people are willing to accept and support summary justice and pre-trial extrajudicial punishment of prisoners as well as a type of informal double jeopardy, in which arrestees for punished once by police at the time of arrest then a second time by the judge after a conviction.

    When “justice” works this way, I’m not sure what distinguishes the United States from many other countries. I personally believe that the right to be tried by a jury or judge before punishment is meted out is a more fundamental and important right than the right to bear firearms. Most white people would strongly disagree with me, at least when it is most important — when making a decision as a member of a jury, but also when delineating the role of police officers in society.

  4. Most white people would insist that there is a significant difference between the police and the Klu Klux Klan, because police are part of the formal, legal criminal justice system. But when police regularly act summarily and particularly with people who skin is not white, as an angry lawless white-hooded mob would, and with impunity, then the difference between the police and klansmen is one of degree, but not one of substance.

  5. “I don’t think most people with white skin on juries are making police brutality/atrocity decisions based on the information presented at trial. White people believe that the police are there to protect them, so the make public poliicy decisions to support police regardless of the evidence presented at trial.”

    Generalize much, Francis? When whitey does that, I’m betting you’d get your panties all bunched up. So let’s get a couple of things straight:

    1) Not ivory snow, but I’m white enough AND I agree with almost all of your statements above EXCEPT the introductory paragraph. Which is simply racist, you clown. That shows the fallacy of your generalization.

    2) The idea that the police in general are your friend probably has less to do with skin color than level of affluence with whites. Poor whites don’t trust the popo any more than blacks. So maybe there’s more to it than just melanin content, k?

    3) Bad cops are a problem for everyone. But it’s nice to see you’d use racial profiling for voir dire. That’s just precious.

    Come back any time you’d like to pull your foot out of your mouth or, perhaps, keep swallowing to the knee.

  6. I see you’ve opted to keep swallowing. Nice job, Francis. You and bdaman should go bowling so you can spend your spare moments hating on whitey and the Jews.

  7. FLH-

    If I saw more evidence that black officers were tried and convicted for assaulting citizens while white offers were not I would be more receptive to your argument.

    Instead, I see no evidence that officers of any race are held accountable for meting out extrajudicial punishment and even committing acts of outright torture on citizens. If anything, we see force drift that shows no sign of stopping, magnified by the further militarization of police forces all over the country. That minorities are particularly affected I do not dispute.

    Your argument relies on the assumption that Pat Buchanan’s white America is seeking ends-justify-the-means acquittals of police based on their perceptions of interracial crime:

    “As for racism, its ugliest manifestation is in interracial crime, and especially interracial crimes of violence. Is Barack Obama aware that while white criminals choose black victims 3 percent of the time, black criminals choose white victims 45 percent of the time?

    Is Barack aware that black-on-white rapes are 100 times more common than the reverse, that black-on-white robberies were 139 times as common in the first three years of this decade as the reverse?

    We have all heard ad nauseam from the Rev. Al about Tawana Brawley, the Duke rape case and Jena. And all turned out to be hoaxes. But about the epidemic of black assaults on whites that are real, we hear nothing.”


    I wish it were true that jury selection standards or vigor of prosecution might improve the outcomes in these cases, but even that would not alter the fundamental changes that is now taking place.

    It is not racism that is the foundation of our growing police state… it is rapidly growing government power. This power has many facets, from a War on Drugs that created a prison-industrial complex, widespread law enforcement corruption, and sophisticated global criminal gangs, to the War on Terror, which the government now uses for broad surveillance powers and a whole new level of abuses that we have only just begun to see. These are on top of the crimes we commit in the name of freedom and so-called democracy across the globe to expand our empire, while we force children and grandchildren who haven’t even been born to pay for it. In my opinion the role of race simply does not sufficiently explain these kinds of fundamental changes in the role of government.

  8. BIL,

    I’m sorry, but I don’t like the way you responded to Mr. Holland, but calling him a “clown,” sounds a little below you. And then taunting him out in your second post?

    Anyway, I TOTALLY agree with you about the blanket opening statement. As you note, why any statement like it is inherently racist. You also say, though, that you agree with much of what Mr. Holland has to say. I do to.

    His piece is well written, and he certainly offers a new and interesting point-of-view. I would just ask that we all take a little breather here and not be so quick to take somebody down with quick jabs and tenacious wit (both of which MANY on this blog of demonstrated they do so well — INCLUDING ME). I think we should encourage other viewpoints, especially when one presents their ideas as Mr. Holland did. Unfortunately, I don’t think name calling encourages additional “sharing” in the comment section.

    To that end, Buddha, I come humbly asking for a little more civility whenever possible. You are well-respected here, and people look to you and want to agree with you because they know your opinions are well-reasoned and thought out. I ask that you use your position on this blog — one you’ve previously described as “alpha” — to set us on the right path by adopting a more respectful tone. And that doesn’t mean you don’t call people out on their bullshit (please do!), and that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t throw out your pointed perspective whenever possible (indeed, that’s one of the reasons I check-in here). Just no more names like, “clown,” please. Even though you may argue someone who holds a racist viewpoint is inherently a clown. And you may have a point there! 😉

    Awaiting any needed tongue-lashing,



  9. BIL,

    You really think you kind find a largish city that doesn’t have this kind of thing happen? As a whole, the LEO I’ve dealt with in the Denver area have been all that one could hope for. They dealt with the Democratic convention well, despite the calls for rioting that went out over the Conservative radio waves.

    Denver’s a good city, decent music scene (not the best, but not as bad as some places), a couple of fantastic sushi joints (which is surprising) and other good local restaurants, and lots of high quality beer. It’s not really a big city by East or West coast standards, but compared to the surrounding states it is. If you like the outdoors, it can’t be beat.

  10. Budha, buddha, you are one savvy hombre! You carved that judge up like a holiday ham(no pun intended)! I have even more respect for your ability to ‘splain things to neophytes’ like me, who aren’t lawyers. Your high powered perception and wit are laser sharp and amusing also. “Hoax’, you called those cases a “hoax”! You are spot on and have more guts than a slaughterhouse! Bravo buddha!

  11. Gyges,

    I’m sure you are correct. But I’d also like to note for any Denver city officials with supervisory budgetary powers for the Denver PD that not all publicity is good publicity. We’ve had some winners in KC, rest assured. Nearby Independence, MO recently provided us with this lovely example of how to treat pregnant women:


  12. George,

    If one wants to be called a racist by acting racist? Then I’m thinking clown is neither out of line nor inappropriate. In fact, last time I checked in the “International Insult Handicapping Database”, the term “clown” is a far preferred term to “racist”. If anything, I watered it down. I think I’d be more concerned about that if I were Francis.

  13. George,

    Sorry to disappoint on the tongue lashing, but you’re simply generally too nice a guy to merit the war face. I am willing to custom heckle – recently mespo asked for someone to call him a wild eyed plaintiff’s attorney and I gladly obliged. So if it’s a ceremonial war scar you’re looking for, I’ll be glad to oblige. Just ask. One lives to be of service.

  14. “Sorry to disappoint on the tongue lashing, but you’re simply generally too nice a guy to merit the war face. I am willing to custom heckle – recently mespo asked for someone to call him a wild eyed plaintiff’s attorney and I gladly obliged. So if it’s a ceremonial war scar you’re looking for, I’ll be glad to oblige. Just ask. One lives to be of service.”


    You are kind. No, am not looking for any war scars. I know you’d be glad to do it — and that you would be the one TO do it — if it were desired!

    Nevertheless, I appreciate your comment about “clown” being a nicer pejorative than “racist,” and, I guess, your’re right about that.

    Thanks for listening to my point. As always, I appreciate it.


  15. Not at all George. I should thank you for always posting intelligent well reasoned posts. I always read and appreciate those kind of posts even I have nothing to add. You have been a model new addition here. If I have not said so before, welcome.

  16. You have been a model new addition here. If I have not said so before, welcome.

    Thank you, Buddha. Have a good day.


  17. BIL/all, Why use any pejoratives? It’s not about the (original) poster, it’s about the venue and level of debate.

    The only experience I have with jury’s are my times spent as a juror, and I never want to serve again. My contribution to the debate would be totally ad hominem and ‘for what it’s worth’ which wouldn’t be much. I’d like to see a good, learned debate about what is wrong with the jury system regarding police ‘crime’. Pejoratives just end debate or devolve it. This blawg has a higher calling (only if by accident and past practice), even if it’s only to tangentially educate armatures like me. Let’s not end informative debates before they begin.

  18. lotta,

    Sorry. I reserve the right to be insulting. A little perspective here.

    I called someone a racist clown who was acting like a racist clown.

    I know you, lotta, have been here to know that when it comes to being insulting to make a funny I can be much crueler than that.

    By a considerable length.

    Yes, this place does serve a higher purpose. Free speech is one of them. This is a little free speech and nothing more. Spicy a bit, but not an acid bath.

    If someone acting poorly gets their nose tweaked, I’m actually all for it. There’s civil and there’s suffering fools. I have no issue with the Prof’s definition and (re) enforcement of the civility rule. I don’t think that was a violation or a degradation either. If it was, he’s demonstrated I am not above the law either. Civility is just great and the blog has been a much better place recently for it, but suffering fools gladly is simply not in my nature. It never has been. Puncturing racism with humor to me trumps the value of protecting a racist clown’s feelings. In fact, it has the additional value of possibly hurting their feelings. Pain is an effective behavior modification technique. Ask Pavlov.

    If I am incorrect, I gladly heed the Prof’s direction in re civility. But otherwise, if you expect me to drop insulting humor from my repetior all together, eh, that’s probably not going to happen. If I am anything it’s sarcastic. To fight one’s tao is to invite disaster.

  19. puzzling:

    interesting post, are you a libertarian or some other flavor? You sound as if you might be other than a libertarian. Just curious.

    your posts are always well presented and informative.

  20. I love Denver, I have been warned that the “coppers” have a rather coarse reputation. It has been likened to ‘frontier justice’. All in all, Colorado is a gorgeous state and I may decide to retire here. California/Colorado,California/Colorado, decisions-decisions..

  21. billy:

    if you are single, rich and handsome, I have a very smart and attractive sister that lives in Denver. Hell one out of 3 would be good.

  22. Byron,

    Thank you for your comments; I’m glad you have enjoyed some of these posts. I usually want to edit them for clarity or cadence as soon as they go up!

    Although my posts rarely have the levity and optimism of our host (and many posters) here, I return to this blog and several others where I can find thoughtful and principled company. I like to introduce ideas and viewpoints that the audience may not have fully considered, hopefully in a way that adds to the debate. I have certainly learned a lot in these discussions personally.

  23. Buddah.

    “Generalize much, Francis? When whitey does that, I’m betting you’d get your panties all bunched up. So let’s get a couple of things straight:

    What Francis L Holland said, but I am a white man from Australia. White racists are simply incapable of realizing just how racist they in fact are.

    All people tend to overestimate the extent to which others treat them unfairly and to underestimate the extent to which they treat others unfairly, but the extent to which blacks are discriminated against by whites is so overwhelming that there is limited scope for them to exaggerate. If Francis L Holland exaggerates it is by a small amount say 5% whereas when white bigots exaggerate the harms done to them by black people they exaggerate by several hundred percent.

  24. I always get a bit angry when white people act as if they are entitled to be as righteously indignant when a black person points out that they are racist as a black person is entitled to be when a white person calls them a Nigger.

    For a black person the word “Nigger” is not just an indication of the animosity and contempt that the particular white person using it feels towards him, it is a reminder of slavery, of Jim Crow, of lynchings, of the beating of Rodney King and the murders of Amadou Diallo and Tarika Wilson. It is a reminder that a white policeman could shoot him dead and would most probably get away with it. It likely arouses in them real frisson of fear which is entirely justified.

    When someone implies that a white person is racist it does not remind them of how many unfortunate racists were gassed by armies of anti-racists or hanged by the neck from trees by mobs of the politically correct, latte sipping liberals of the chattering classes. White righteous indignation about being called on their racism is not necessarily feigned but it is still overdone and involves racist attitudes that they have but of which they may be aware but only unconsciously so.

  25. CM,


    Being black doesn’t give him a free pass. There’s a huge difference in being a strong advocate for the black community (which you often are) and just being a tool(which Francis was). I know the value of exaggeration in argument, propaganda and fiction proper. He wasn’t exaggerating. If he was, he was doing so poorly. He reads as being just as racist as the behavior he was complaining about. For that, no excuse is either required or accepted. When someone lapses into hypocrisy that it’s often a good moment illustrate the error of their ways – to either their or an observer’s benefit – whether said lapse was intentional or not.

  26. Carlyle:

    Can you clarify what you said. I am inferring that you are saying that white people are racist by the very fact that they are white. That white people are inherently racist and can be nothing else by virtue of their “whiteness”. Because they have the “power” they use it to protect their own and hold other races down and trample their rights, is that what you are saying?

    How can you have a racist view subconsciously? Would it not manifest itself quite quickly and then not be subconscious? If it is subconscious, then how are you even aware that you are a racist?
    Are you saying then that people are racist inherently? If it is subconscious we could then legitimately apply it to all races equally, a human brain operates the same way for all races. So if I understand you correctly you are saying that all races are racist by virtue of being human?

    There might be some truth in that as with animals, birds of a feather flock together. But so do people with similar interests. For example my wife used to teach 2nd grade and during break the teachers of each grade would congregate based on grade level, it did not matter the race, creed or political association. People that like politics tend to associate with others of like mind. This website is a good example of that.

    So I am not sure that people are inherently racist as you seem to contend.

  27. Buddah & Byron.

    Most things that most people believe about racism are myths or fallacies. This makes sensible discussion about it impossible for the vast majority maybe 95% of members of species homo sapiens sapiens. For example if most believe that they could not possibly be racist because they are not named Adolph Hitler and do not parade around dressed in sheets with eye holes then only the remaining 5% can hold a meaningful discussion and then only among others of the same minority.

    In my opinion a member of the human species who asserts that he or she is not a racist is either a liar or lacking in self awareness. Do you think that I think that I myself am not racist, actually I know that I am.

    My belief is that all humans are racist to some extent against some group or other. If they are not prejudiced on the basis of race it may be on religion or social class or nationality or gender or sexual orientation. All prejudicial ~isms are based on the same psychological and social mechanisms. Some years ago there was a conference on racism held in South Africa, and Indian cast prejudice activists wanted cast prejudice included and the Indian government lobbied for it to be excluded. I don’t know what the final result was.

    To say that a particular human is racist is like saying that a particular cat has four legs since the vast majority of cats have four legs, it contains very little information. Of course James L Holland is racist, he is human and all humans are racist therefore James L Holland is racist. James L if you read this I am not trying to insult you since I visit your blog daily, just trying to make an important point.

    I do not believe that racism is unique to white people it is just that in many places in the world people of European descent control the levers of power and thus their racism leveraged with this power can do enormous damage whereas the racism of the disempowered and the poor has little effect on the powerful. This is not to say that there are not cases where reverse racism does occur, I remember a case mentioned in an Australian newspaper some years ago where an Australian Aboriginal employee of the Australian Department of Aboriginal affairs was discovered to have acted in a manner motivated by racial prejudice against a white employee. It is not the will to racism that blacks lack it is the opportunity to get away with it. Do you think a black policeman who acted towards a white citizen of the respectable classes would have as good a chance of acquittal as the thug officer mentioned in JT’s article.

    The majority see racism as involving the level of malice that causes people to murder nearly six million using the full resources of a technological society or who burn crosses on lawns or tow Negroes behind light trucks. A proper classification would say that such people are not racists, they are extreme racists.

    The common belief is that if racism does not reach this intensity it is not a problem. I am saying that quite low levels of racist beliefs do enormous damage to their targets when people harbouring these beliefs act as cogs in the justice system filling the positions of police, prosecutors, judges and jurors and the targets are people without access to adequate legal resources.

    To say that a person is racist is not the same as saying that they are evil. Except perhaps for KKKers, most people I believe would be amenable to challenging and changing their racist beliefs if these were demonstrated to them in an effective way.
    That is why I recommend Jane Elliotts documentary films “Blue Eyed” and “A Class Divided” and the racism sensitization methods described therein. Even KKKers are not necessarily all bad. I remember reading about a Jew who infiltrated a white supremacist organization and found that he liked some of the people he met, except for hating Jews and Negroes they were OK. OK that is a pretty big exception but they are not necessary psychopaths. One does not need to be a psychopath to participate in genocide if every one one knows believes that the targets are untermenchen.

  28. There is a problem with people who are beneficiaries of privilege they often do not understand how much these privileges contribute to their well being and how much the lack of such privileges contributes to the misery of the huge black underclass.

    In the USA adequate school education is a privilege that is reserved for white people of the respectable classes but if anything the children of the underclass need access to much greater educational resources partly to make up for the deficits they suffer because of their environment.

    There are also negative privileges, the laws banning post school educational assistance and government housing to drug criminals effects poor people in away that it does not affect the classes from which the people who pass such laws come. People from the congress or senator class are wealthy enough that their children do not require monetary assistance for post school education or government housing but poor people do.

  29. Unfortunately, behavior like this seems to be getting more commonplace here in Denver and other nice cities. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with race. Hatred is hatred and there are plenty of reasons for it, including something as ridiculous as not liking the other guy’s sports team.

  30. To all saying this was poice brutality, and this and that, i was at this trial and saw both Cordova and Heaney, Cordova is a kind man, also Prinkey is an idiot who can barely remeber his name. There where other witnessess who saw Heaney throw the first punch that weren’t mention, Heaneys’s own dentist said hes teeth could have been broken many ways and the pictures showed no injuries to his nose or lips which would have hit the pavement first had the teeth broken from a head slam. there are multiple cases of this “teeth breaking” sound in the video, over ten, which many of the prosecution witnessess could not tell the difference. Know the facts before making accusations, he was cleared for a reason.

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