DENVER (CBS4) – A Denver sheriff’s deputy cleared of criminal charges for slapping a female inmate is now attempting to get her job back.
“I love working for the sheriff’s department,” said Anne Kelly, in her first interview since her December acquittal on a third degree assault and harassment charge.
The Denver Sheriff’s Department fired her and she was criminally charged after the March 25, 2011, slapping incident.
“It’s an embarrasing situation,” said Kelly. “I think I’ve served my time for this matter.”
Kelly was working at the Denver Detention Center and processing inmates when Felicity Tierney, a suspected DUI driver, was brought in following an accident.
Jail videotape obtained during CBS4′s investigation shows Tierney refusing to remove a diamond engagement ring, prompting Kelly and a second deputy to go “hands on” and remove the ring by force.
During the tussle Tierney scratched Kelly on the deputies’ arm, leaving scars that are still visible 10 months later.
“Yeah, I needed to get the situation under control. I’m bleeding pretty badly. It was time for her to understand the rules and regulations so I had to get the situation under control,” said Kelly, in explaining the slap.
About a minute after getting Tierney’s ring, the suspect then removes one of her shoes and tosses it a few feet away. That prompts Deputy Kelly to slap Tierney across the face.
“You look at the video and it looks like I hauled off and popped her because she threw the shoe, but that’s not what happened,” said Kelly.
She said the open-handed slap was not out of anger or retaliation but was intended to de-escalate the situation.
“I just had to control the situation,” said Kelly. “When you’re assaulted, you’re allowed to use force to stop the incident.”
But sheriff’s department administrators and the district attorney’s office didn’t see it that way. The department fired her, saying Kelly used inappropriate force.
The department noted that Kelly was also suspended for 30 days in 2010 for slapping another inmate. And the Denver District Attorney’s office charged Kelly with third degree assault and harassment for smacking Tierney.
But at trial in December a jury acquitted Deputy Kelly on both charges. Despite repeated requests, the Denver District Attorney’s Office did not offer any comment on the jury verdict.
“Once the jury viewed it in context, they said the officer did nothing wrong’, said Donald Sisson, one of Kelly’s attorneys.
Another of her lawyers, Reid Elkus, said the sheriff’s department and prosecutors were guilty of Monday morning quarterbacking.
“It’s easy to look at Kelly weeks later and say this is a violation of the law, but they didn’t live it,” said Elkus. “And we told the jury that.”
Elkus and Sisson point out that the jury’s verdict in the Kelly case is one in a string of rebukes for the city. In recent weeks, hearing officers and a jury have disagreed with numerous terminations of both deputy sheriffs and police officers.
“When you have an impartial panel like a jury they’re going to find certain acts aren’t violations of law, at least thats my take on it,” said Elkus.
A spokesperson for Denver’s Manager of Safety told CBS4 they would not comment on the Kelly verdict since the deputy has appealed her firing and is now attempting to get her job back.
Manager of Safety Alex Martinez released the following written statement:
“The Manager of Safety’s office is committed to fair and impartial decision making based on the facts and circumstances of each individual case. While we respect the authority of both the Civil Service Commission and Career Service Authority hearing officers, we do not tolerate Deceptive Conduct or other misconduct, and will continue to impose appropriate discipline.”
“I just want my job back,” said Kelly.