DENVER (AP) - Police Officer Vicki Ferrari appeared as a contestant on “American Gladiators” to battle bodybuilders through obstacle courses in tests of strength, agility and cunning.
Now, Ferrari faces allegations of roughing up a shop manager during tense moments spent providing backup for other officers. Her appearance on the reality show is coming back to haunt her at a civil trial claiming excessive force and illegal arrest.
Lawyer David Lane, who represents the shop manager, showed jurors a website Tuesday promoting Ferrari’s appearance on the TV show in 2008. It revealed her nickname as “pitbull” and said she was “charming and easy going with a lightning-quick temper.”
Lane told jurors the site suggests she arrested shopkeeper David Kraus in anger and tightened his handcuffs so tightly that it caused pain.
Ferrari disputed the accusation during her testimony.
“I got the nickname because I’m so small,” the 5-foot-3, 124-pound Ferrari testified about being called a pitbull. As for having a quick temper: “I’ve never heard that described like that to me.”
Ferrari is one of two female Denver police officers who appeared as contestants on “American Gladiators” in 2008, when NBC revived the late 1980s hit.
The other contestant, Officer Abbegayle “Abbe” Dorn also is named in a lawsuit alleging excessive force. Both lawsuits were filed after the female officers appeared on the show in May 2008.
Denver police Lt. Matthew Murray said there has been no discussion about whether appearing on reality shows makes officers targets for lawsuits.
In Ferrari’s case, Kraus, described as a Boy Scout leader, church minister and honorably discharged Marine who served in Vietnam, said he politely asked her to move the car that was blocking a driveway near the shop he manages.
Ferrari told jurors Kraus became agitated and began yelling at her when she refused to move from the spot where she was providing backup to officers conducting a traffic stop.
Ferrari testified that she warned Kraus that he could be charged with interference then said he was under arrest when he wouldn’t stop yelling.
She testified that she wasn’t upset but was bothered by Kraus’ reaction.
“I was completely caught off guard. I was bothered. I could not fathom why he was so upset,” Ferrari said in court.
While the jury was out of the courtroom, Lane argued that her “American Gladiators” biography contradicted her statements in court along with an internal affairs investigation that found no wrongdoing.
“Nobody likes to be yelled out,” Lane told U.S. District Judge Walker Miller. “She was more than bothered because she has a lightning quick temper.”
The civil trial is expected to continue through Thursday.
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