Penrod found not guilty
- Published: July 16, 2015
Yellow Springs Police Sergeant Naomi Penrod was found not guilty on all three counts, assault, interfering with civil rights and disorderly conduct, following an incident in November in Yellow Springs. Penrod was found not guilty after an hour of deliberation by an eight-person jury on Thursday, July 16, at about 6 p.m. in the Greene County Court of Common Pleas. The verdict followed a three-day trial, with Judge Teresa Liston of Columbus presiding.
Following the November incident, Penrod was put on paid leave by the local police department, and she continues on paid leave. She was suspended for several days without pay following an internal investigation.
The criminal charges against Penrod were brought by Springfield City Prosecutor Marc Ross, after the Clark County Sheriff’s Department completed an independent investigation of a complaint against Penrod brought by a villager, Athena Fannin. According to Fannin, on November 5, Penrod, at Fannin’s Allen Street home for a peace officer call for an eviction notice, grabbed away from Fannin the camera she was trying to use to record the police presence, and in the process inflicted physical harm as well as interfering with Fannin’s civil rights. However, during the trial the prosecution produced no evidence of Fannin’s physical harm, and also had no medical report to back up Fannin’s assertion that she had to go to the emergency room following the incident.
The trial took three days, an unusually long time for the Greene County courts, according to a county victim advocate on Thursday evening. The first day was taken up with jury selection, with opening statements made by the opposing attorneys on late Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, the prosecution presented its witnesses: along with Fannin, the witnesses were Yellow Springs Police Officers Mark Charles and Tom Sexton, who had both been on the Nov. 5 call with Penrod, and Chief Dave Hale. The prosecution also called as a witness Detective Darlene Buxton of the Clark County Sheriff’s Department, who had interviewed Penrod as part of the Clark County investigation.
On Thursday, July 16, the defense attorney, Adrian King of Xenia, presented his two witnesses: Penrod and ACE Talk Force Director Bruce May. The opposing attorneys then gave closing statements.
According to Ross, Penrod, who forcibly removed Fannin’s camera during the Nov. 5 event to prevent her from video taping the encounter with police, was interfering with Fannin’s civil rights.
“This is not just Athena’s Constitution, it’s all of our Constitution,” he said, citing the importance of citizens such as Fannin as citizen journalists. “This case is asking you to hold a public official accountable for her actions.”
However, King asserted that Penrod took the camera away to ensure the safety of herself and her officers, and that Fannin was obstructing police business by introducing a camera into an already volatile situation. He also asserted that Penrod was “on her own” in making a snap judgement regarding how to deal with the camera, since the Yellow Springs police department has no written policies or procedures regarding police interactions with citizens who are filming encounters with police.
“Yellow Springs police training is horrific,” he said in an opening statement. “The training is very thin.”
In the end, the jury went with the defendant, and found that they could not determine without a reasonable doubt that Penrod had intentionally taken away Fannin’s civil rights, nor had she intentionally caused physical harm.
See the July 23 News for a more detailed report.