- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 9, 2016

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A federal trial has begun in Las Vegas for a suspended Clark County School District police officer accused of depriving the rights of a student and a staff member in a physical attack at an alternative high school campus and of trying to cover it up.

James Lescinsky’s trial began Monday before U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey in Las Vegas, and it was expected to take several days.

The 45-year-old officer decided not to have the case heard by a jury. He could face decades in prison if he’s convicted of deprivation of rights under color of law and document falsification in a May 2015 lunchroom fight at a North Las Vegas high school for students assessed with behavior problems.

Lescinsky’s attorney, Jack Campbell, said prosecutors misunderstand what happened after Lescinsky raced to the lunchroom, believing he had to break up a fight.

Campbell told the judge that three supervisors found Lescinsky’s actions were reasonable under department policy, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal report (https://bit.ly/2aSiI6S ).

U.S. Justice Department prosecutor Adam Harris told the judge that Lescinsky broke the law and knew his actions were inconsistent with his training.

A grand jury indicted Lescinsky after prosecutors presented evidence that he hit the 15-year-old female student and a female maintenance worker with his police-issued baton and falsified incident reports.

Lescinsky allegedly lied when he said the student was combative and that the student and staff member were wrestling. He also is accused of trying to get a witness to back up his account.

The maintenance worker, Tarika Rushing, 33, testified that her finger was broken when Lescinsky struck her left hand with the baton without warning, after she had helped pull the student away from a fight with another girl, the Review-Journal reported.

In earlier court filings, Campbell attacked the credibility of the school district police internal affairs investigator who helped the FBI bring federal charges against Lescinsky. The Review-Journal reported that prosecutors do not plan to call the investigator or the FBI agent who worked with him as trial witnesses.

Lescinsky joined the school district police force in August 2012. He has been reassigned to non-police duties pending the outcome of the case.

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