Officer found not guilty of assault charges

Patrolman Michael Sapp was cleared of the charge by a Ewing Township judge Wednesday.

By: Chris Karmiol
   EWING — East Windsor Patrolman Michael Sapp was found innocent Wednesday in an assault case brought against him by former Twin Rivers resident Stanford Bryant.
   Mr. Bryant claimed that during an arrest for an outstanding traffic warrant Patrolman Sapp kicked him several times in the foot when he had trouble getting his size 14 boot into the back of the car.
   Mr. Bryant said that injuries sustained in an earlier car accident made certain movements difficult for him. Patrolman Sapp said he lifted Mr. Bryant’s foot into the car using his own foot. The officer said he did not use his hand to lift Mr. Bryant’s foot, as that would have left him vulnerable to a kick in the face or groin.
   Judge Roger T. Haley, in his not-guilty verdict, said Mr. Bryant, who argued his own case for the state, could not produce corroborating evidence of injury to his foot through either photographs, doctor’s reports or his girlfriend’s testimony. His girlfriend, Jennifer Millard, was driving the car the night of the incident a year ago.
   "I am not convinced Patrolman Sapp made contact with Mr. Bryant’s foot to cause bodily harm," Judge Haley said. "I don’t have any evidence to convince me of the force that was used."
   East Windsor’s municipal judge recused himself from the case, so it was heard in Ewing Township.
   Mr. Bryant appeared disheartened standing outside the Ewing Township Municipal Building after losing the case. Patrolman Sapp, who appeared in court with Lt. Joseph Bonavico, offered no comment.
   Police Chief William Spain said the judge’s decision was consistent with the finding of an internal investigation, which found no wrongdoing against Patrolman Sapp.
   Mr. Bryant, in addition to his formal charge of assault, claimed that he was subject to unnecessary verbal force. In his testimony he claimed that when he expressed dismay at being arrested, Patrolman Sapp said: "I’m in control. You can’t tell me what to do," while using profanities against him.
   Patrolman Sapp, responding to this claim, said that on the night of the arrest Mr. Bryant put up his hands indignantly and said, "I’m not going to jail." The officer said he raised his voice in order to gain compliance from his prisoner. When asked if he used profanity in making the arrest, Patrolman Sapp said that he "quite possibly" did.