Racial cover-up alleged in deputy beating trial

Racial cover-up alleged in deputy beating trial »Play Video
Malika Calhoun testifies in King County Superior Court on Wednesday, January 13, 2009.
SEATTLE -- The Seattle chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People says a racial slur is being covered up in the trial of a former King County sheriff's deputy charged with beating a teenage girl.

Chapter president James Bible said the prosecutor's office is ignoring evidence, and he may try to push the criminal case to the federal level, where it could be investigated as a possible hate crime.

Paul Schene is charged with assault in the November 2008 incident in a holding cell at SeaTac City Hall.

Schene and Deputy Travis Brunner arrested two 15-year-old girls for investigation of auto theft. The problems began after Schene escorted one of the teens into a holding cell. Deputies told Malika Calhoun to remove her shoes. Instead, she kicked it off, and the shoe struck Schene in the shin.

A surveillance camera captured Schene's violent response. Schene charged in, kicked the teen in the upper thigh, then pushed her into the back wall before taking her down on the floor and putting her in a handcuffing position.

Once on the floor, Schene grabbed Calhoun's hair and yanked her head and neck upward. Schene later filed a report claiming he'd been assaulted by the girl.

An internal affairs unit investigator interviewed Calhoun after Schene's violent response was called into question.

The girl said Schene used the "n-word" when he addressed her, according to a transcript of the interview. The prosecutor said there were conflicting statements about whether a derogatory term was used, and said there wasn't enough evidence to persue the case as a hate crime.

Calhoun took the stand Wednesday and said Schene punched her after she told the deputies that she was not resisting.

She admits she shot back with her own profanities when the deputies asked her if she was a prostitute, and the ugly banter escalated.

Watch the raw video

At one point, the video shows Schene ripping jewelry from Calhoun's neck when she was slow to remove it.

"He yanked it," Calhoun said in court Wednesday. "Instead of pulling it off, he yanked it."

The girl testified that after Schene charged into the holding cell and began to hit her, her whole body went limp.

"I was so scared I didn't know what to do," she said.

Questioning the deputy's former partner, Schene's lawyer said his client was simply following his training.

King County Sheriff Sue Rahr fired Schene last September for a number of policy violations, including the video-taped incident.

Schene's attorney said his client, having been hit by the girl's shoe, was trying to bring the girl under control using a safe take-down method.