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Taser Trial Starts

KVAL photo

(Video still of Ian Van Ornum and his defense lawyer by KVAL.)

The trial of taser victim Ian Van Ornum began today with testimony of a Homeland Security officer and Eugene police officer and the judge's ejection of an independent video taker from the court room.

Judge Jack Billings alleged that Tim Lewis, who regularly posts video on YouTube, had video taped members of the jury outside the courtroom in violation of a court order. Billings barred Lewis from observing the trial.

Van Ornum is charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest at an anti-pesticide protest last May. Protesters and Van Ornum allege that police used excessive force in twisting his arms, pulling his hair, giving him a concussion and tasering him twice. The trial is expected to continue through Friday.

The trial was originally set for Eugene municipal court with the city prosecutor. But the county district attorney decided to try the case instead in state court in a move protesters alleged was a political decision in response to their charges of excessive force.

The decision to elevate the municipal court case was unusual and came at a time that the district attorney and judges are claiming that they lack sufficient resources to try and prosecute burglars and dangerous felons. The DA case has effectively delayed an independent investigation of the charges of excessive force by the Eugene police auditor for almost a year.

Assistant District Attorney Bob Lane said in his opening statement today that the force used against Van Onum was justified by the protester’s resistance to arrest for slowing traffic through the Broadway and Willamette intersection. “This case is going to be an attempt to portray these officers as bad people,” Lane said. “There’s one person who’s to blame, the defendant.”

Van Ornum’s defense attorney Laura Fine said in her opening that police intervened in a peaceful protest in support of a county action to reform pesticide use. Police pulled Van Ornum’s hair, she said, “he was thrown against a wall, he was thrown against the ground.” She Van Ornum was later treated for a concussion.

Fine said police tasered Van Ornum with 50,000 volts twice within 30 seconds. “My client was subject to excessive force.”