Laurel police sergeant acquitted in assault case

A Laurel Police Department sergeant facing two charges of assault, a single count of use of a firearm in a crime of violence and eight counts of office misconduct was acquitted on all charges Tuesday by a Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge.

Sgt. Jason Sarver, of Laurel, a 13-year veteran of the force, had been indicted by a grand jury last October after being accused of striking a man riding a dirt bike during a pursuit June 7 last year. The driver of the bike, Cody Sullivan, of Laurel, was treated for non-life threatening injuries. He testified against Sarver in the case, which was brought to the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office after an internal investigation by Laurel Police.

Prosecutor Joel Patterson presented evidence in the two-day trial from a camera mounted in Sarver’s cruiser as well as a body camera, according to John Erzen, a spokesman with the office.

Sarver’s attorney Jeffrey Harding, who said the sergeant faced up to 45 years in prison, countered with the testimony of Gary Lewis, a retired Montgomery County Police officer who now acts as a private consultant specializing in motor vehicle accident reconstruction.

“Sarver is ecstatic,” Harding said after the acquittal. “He has always maintained through this process that he was wrongly indicted and innocent and did not ram the bike as alleged.

“Our case from the beginning was that Sergeant Sarver acted appropriately and followed the rules and had probable cause to stop, and did stop, the motorcycle. Gary Lewis, a retired Montgomery County detective and accident reconstructionist analyzed the case and said there was no contact and that he did everything by the book.”

The incident took place between Fourth and Eighth streets in Laurel. Harding said that in the trial, Sullivan admitted he was driving illegally, operating a dirt bike without registration, missing a headlight and driving the wrong way up a one-way street. Harding said that court records show Sullivan did not initially file a complaint until days later when he accused Sarver of striking the bike with his cruiser. Sarver also was accused of pulling his service gun on Sullivan.

The misconduct charges stemmed from Sarver’s being “untruthful about the manner in which he struck the bike” along with “inconsistencies with his report ...” Erzen said last year.

After an internal investigation by the police, the case was recommended to the State’s Attorney’s Office by Lt. Erik Lynn, Harding said.

“We certainly respect the decision of the court but disagree with it,” Erzen said, after the acquittal. “We felt there was enough evidence to show the intent and felt he struck the defendant with his cruiser during the pursuit, but the judge disagreed. We had the cruiser cam and the body cam video. We felt that both of those showed the officer during the pursuit struck the person on the dirt bike.”

The case was decided by Judge Leo Green.

Since the indictment, Sarver had been suspended without pay by Laurel Police Chief Richard McLauglin.

Patrick McAndrew, an attorney in Greenbelt representing Sarver in administrative matters, said he expects Sarver to attempt to return to his job. He said the Laurel Police Department may conduct an internal affairs investigation but it was too soon to know what would happen next.

Sarver could not be reached for comment.

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