Before charges were brought against Briggs in February 2011, State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein sat in on an interview session with Finein, who had filed a use-of-force report that stated that Thomas was resisting him.

At Briggs' trial, prosecutors called as a witness a Virginia-based martial-arts expert, Lewis Hicks, who since 2008 has been paid $1.8 million to teach officers how to bring suspects under control without using excessive force. Documents showed Briggs had been through that training twice, and Hicks testified that Briggs didn't apply the techniques correctly.

Owens, Briggs' attorney, said in an interview that while Thomas may have appeared to be under control, Thomas had assaulted Briggs before the scene captured in the video, and Briggs could not assume that Thomas no longer posed a threat.

He also said Briggs used less force than the other options available to him, such as using a baton.

"The video portrays this case in the light the state wanted it to be portrayed," Owens said. "Unfortunately, there is no video capturing the entire incident. If there had been, we think this case would've turned out differently."

Thomas was sentenced to 10 years in prison on drug distribution charges in 2003, and got eight years for drug distribution and resisting arrest in 1997.

Needleman, Thomas' attorney, said she's not sure the case would have moved forward without the video. "That's the interesting question. Is there a case here if there's no video? My instincts tell me no. It's a legitimate position to a degree, in terms of putting their resources to good use."

Briggs was ordered to complete 200 hours of community service as part of his year of supervised probation, according to Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the city prosecutor's office. If he successfully completes the probation, he won't have a conviction on his record.

Thomas said he believes a regular citizen would have received a harsher penalty. But he praised prosecutors, particularly Janice Bledsoe, Bernstein's newly appointed prosecutor in charge of police misconduct. "She went hard," he said.

Needleman says Thomas plans to pursue a civil lawsuit against the Police Department.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com


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