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TALE OF THE TAPE

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A few months earlier, Osipenkof says, he had had a disagreement with his then girlfriend. She locked him out of their apartment. He broke down the door. Osipenkof had appeared in court on the matter, and thought it was resolved, but it turned out a warrant for his arrest still existed.

Osipenkof says he didn't think there was any cause for his arrest on the old dispute, but he didn't fight it.

"I just went along with it, knowing the arrest was a mistake," he says.
The arrest probably would have remained routine, Osipenkof says, were it not for a peculiarity of Willrich's. Or, more specifically, a peculiarity of the handcuffs Willrich used that night.

On standard handcuffs, a short length of chain attaches the two cuffs to each other. The chain provides a small, but welcome, measure of flexibility for someone with his arms shackled behind his back.

But some officers--including Willrich--prefer what are known as "hinge handcuffs," which are exactly what the name indicates. Instead of a chain, the cuffs are joined at the middle by an inflexible hinge that allows virtually no movement of the arms.

"When you have your hands behind your back, your hands twist," says David Anderson, the public defender who represented Osipenkof at his criminal trial. "Willrich had these special kind of cuffs. There is no twist or give in them."
Throughout the ride to the jail, Osipenkof says, he repeatedly complained that the cuffs were cutting into his wrists, and that he could not sit up in the back seat of the patrol car without hurting himself even more.

Willrich, Osipenkof says, stopped the car a couple of times and forced him to sit upright. The officer would not loosen the cuffs to make them more tolerable.

"My wrists were bleeding," Osipenkof says. "He said, 'Quit being such a baby.'"
At the booking area of the jail, Osipenkof stood where he was told to, still handcuffed, while Willrich checked him in. Officer Michael Bluse and another Chandler officer happened to come into the jail with a suspect of their own.

Absent any sympathy from Willrich, Osipenkof asked Bluse to loosen his cuffs.
What happened in the next few minutes is the crux of Osipenkof's case, and all of it was captured on the jail videotape that has since been destroyed.

(Contacted at his home, Bluse declined to discuss the incident, and referred New Times to his department, which also declined to answer questions about the case. Kevin Robinson, spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department, declined to comment on the case, or to allow Willrich to comment.)

According to Osipenkof; his attorney, Anderson; and two jurors who viewed the original tape before it was destroyed, Bluse did not loosen the cuffs. Instead, it appeared that he yanked them upward, hurting Osipenkof even more.

Osipenkof reacted by spinning away from Bluse and Willrich, who by that time had returned his attention to his prisoner.

After spinning away from the officers, those who have seen the original tape agree, Osipenkof raised his right leg in a motion that might be construed as an attempt to knee Bluse in the groin. Osipenkof says it was an instinctive, defensive reaction.

What is clear in the minds of the two jurors--and can still be seen fleetingly on the remaining, bad copy of the jail tape--is that Bluse reached out and grabbed Osipenkof's knee well before it reached the officer's body.

Yet at preliminary hearing and trial, Bluse would testify that Osipenkof did knee him--and hard enough to cause a serious bruise on the officer's thigh.

(The two jurors said they gave little credence to Bluse's claims at Osipenkof's criminal trial. Not only did the tape directly contradict the officer's sworn testimony, but jurors found it unbelievable that, if Bluse had suffered an injury, no one would bother to take a picture of it for use at the trial.)

The alleged assault on Bluse, nonetheless, was proffered by the prosecution at trial as explanation for what happened after Osipenkof raised his knee.

While Bluse held Osipenkof's arm, Willrich did a "leg sweep," knocking Osipenkof's legs out from under him and sending him crashing to the floor.

Osipenkof says Willrich then landed a knee in his back, causing the broken ribs. The two officers then rolled him onto his stomach, hog-tied him and left him face down on the floor while Willrich continued filling out his paperwork.

The original jail tape, say Anderson and the two jurors, supported Osipenkof's version of the events, showing that, at a minimum, the two officers overreacted and were too zealous in subduing the prisoner.

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David Pasztor