Ozaukee jury acquits Saukville resident of felony battery charge stemming from struggle over son’s wallet
An Ozaukee County jury deliberated for less than an hour Tuesday before finding a Saukville man not guilty of intentionally hurting police officer during a scuffle that ensued when officers arrested the man’s teenage son at his house in March.
The jury of six men and six women acquitted Patrick A. Burke, 50, of a felony charge of battery of a peace officer and a misdemeanor count of resisting an officer after a one-day trial presided over by Judge Paul Malloy.
District Attorney Adam Gerol argued Burke intended to injure a Saukville police officer by driving his thumb into the officer’s eye during the scuffle that ended when Burke was shocked with a Taser.
But Burke’s lawyer, Mark Langholz, told jurors that the police officer, who was trying to prevent Burke’s son from handing his father his wallet, instigated the physical contact that resulted in Burke being sandwiched between two officers on the floor of his house. Burke was merely trying to free himself and stand up when he put his hand on the chin of one of the officers, Langholz said.
“Patrick never intended to harm that officer,” Langholz said during his opening statement. “The first person who went hands-on was the officer. He grabbed Patrick.
“Patrick will tell you he simply wanted to get up (off the ground). He will tell you he never, never put his thumb in the officer’s eye.”
A key element of the battery of a police office charge is intent, and it appears the jury agreed with Langholz that Burke never intended to hurt the officer.
The trial stemmed from a March 3 incident that began when Saukville police officer Robert Meyer and Sgt. Robert Ramthun went to Burke’s home while investigating a fight between teenagers.
According to the criminal complaint and court testimony, the officers were questioning Burke’s 16-year-old son about the fight when the boy’s mother told officers the interview was over. The officers then informed the teenager that he was being arrested.
The boy was handing his wallet to Burke for safekeeping when Meyer, concerned that the teenager was trying to hide evidence, tried to grab the wallet, the complaint states.
With Burke and Meyer both attempting to grab the wallet, Ramthun intervened and all three men ended up on the floor.
“The force of falling to the ground was their (the officers’) doing,” Langholz said. “That was their way of dealing with Patrick taking the wallet (from his son).”
Meyer eventually ended up on his back with Burke face-to-face on top of him and Ramthun on top of Burke.
That is when Meyer was injured, the complaint states.
Gerol said Burke palmed Meyer’s head like a basketball and drove his thumb into Meyer’s eye.
Langholz said Burke was simply trying to get off of the officer and stand up.
Gerol noted in his opening statement that Burke apologized repeatedly to the officers shortly after he was arrested.
Shortly before the trial began, Malloy rejected a motion by Langholz to suppress evidence on the grounds that officers entered Burke’s house improperly.
Burke’s wife Geraldine testified that Meyer and Ramthun let themselves into her house through the kitchen door rather than knocking and asking to enter.
“They asked (her son) how his nose was. He said it hurt,” Mrs. Burke said. “Then they started discussing the fight.”
But Meyer testified that Burke’s son, who was in the presence of his mother, let him and Ramthun into the house.
“We did not force our way in. We were let in,” he said. “I’m fully aware you have to be allowed to walk into a residence.”
Malloy noted that someone was not telling the truth.
“The testimony is diametrically opposed,” the judge said. “I think she (Mrs. Burke) is making this up. I see this as consensual entry. The officers were admitted (into the house).”