- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

CINCINNATI (AP) The only person to report seeing a police officer put a man in a choke hold was a teen-age drug user who didn't notify authorities until five days after the man's death, the officer's attorney told jurors yesterday.
"Let me tell you why we are here," attorney Scott Croswell said in his closing argument. "We're here because of Aerial St. Clair. Not one [other] witness reported any impropriety that night."
Ms. St. Clair, 19, testified last week that she watched Officer Robert Jorg with his knee on Roger Owensby Jr.'s back and his arm around Mr. Owensby's neck as he tried to handcuff him.
Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier told jurors that Officer Jorg's bloodied uniform sleeve proves his guilt.
The sleeve, he said, was saturated with blood and lung fluids that are produced by a person who is dying.
Officer Jorg was the only officer who controlled the part of Mr. Owensby's body head, neck and upper back that can cause death by asphyxiation, Mr. Piepmeier said.
"For a brief moment in time, he went too far," the prosecutor said. "For a couple of seconds or a minute, he went beyond his training and he lost it."
After hearing the closing arguments, jurors yesterday began deliberations in the case against Officer Jorg, 30, who is charged with felony involuntary manslaughter and misdemeanor assault in the asphyxiation of Mr. Owensby, 29. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison.
Police said officers stopped Mr. Owensby last Nov. 7 to question him about drug trafficking. They said he tried to flee and was wrestled to the ground and handcuffed.
The county coroner concluded that Mr. Owensby's death was a homicide, caused by a choke hold or the weight of officers piling on top of him while they scuffled on the ground in a gas station parking lot.
In his argument, Mr. Croswell asked why at least four black officers and 10 black civilians watched Officer Jorg, a white officer, choke a black man to death and then cover it up.
"It is the Cincinnati Police Department's fault that Roger Owensby died. There's no question about that," Mr. Croswell said. However, Officer Jorg did not do anything wrong, the attorney said.
Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Nurre said he will sequester jurors during deliberations.
In another court, prosecutors presented evidence against Patrick Caton, 35, another officer involved in tackling and subduing Mr. Owensby. If convicted of misdemeanor assault, Officer Caton could get six months in jail.
The trials come one month after a judge acquitted another officer on all charges in the April shooting of an unarmed black man who was running from Cincinnati police. Timothy Thomas' death touched off three days of rioting. The city imposed a curfew after Officer Stephen Roach was acquitted last month.
Fifteen black men and a 12-year-old boy have died in confrontations with Cincinnati police since 1995. Eleven of them were accused of threatening officers with weapons.

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