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. 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.

  2. 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:


  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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,



  6. charles g.

    Cops very seldom are held account able for any trouble that they cause. Think thin blue line.

  7. Are there any studies showing conviction rates for cops as compared to ordinary citizens??

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. “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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. Sadism pure and simple. It’s sad to see how the assault on an individual in plain sight can so easily be swept under the rug, and those responsible exonerated.

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