After only 45 minutes of deliberation, a jury found it quite easy to convict a cop for official oppression and assault after he was captured on dashcam video kicking a man in the face for calling him a “storm trooper.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Stephen Zawisky said he’ll probably seek jail time when Judge Scott A. Evans sentences Ryan Luckenbaugh, the 37-year-old Mechanicsburg man in April.
“Dude you just kicked a man in the face!” says Pennsylvania State Trooper Michael Trotta to his partner Trooper Luckenbaugh. The man, who’d been assaulted by Luckenbaugh was Christopher Siennick, a local activist who had just practiced his freedom of speech by giving the pair of troopers the middle finger as he skateboarded past them.
The ensuing encounter, as we previously reported, led to Siennick being forcefully arrested, pepper sprayed, tased, man-handled, and later charged — for skating down the wrong side of the street. But while he was seated on the sidewalk, awaiting his patty-wagon ride to the pokey, he began to give the troopers a little piece of his mind. “I’m an American…f’ing fascist pigs. This is just like f’ing the empire. You’re just a f’ing storm trooper. You dumb shit. Why don’t you wake up and (inaudible),” and then Siennick can be heard spitting.
Not approving of Siennick’s free speech, Luckenbaugh then kicked Siennick in the face, even though he was handcuffed and seated on the sidewalk. Almost immediately, Luckenbaugh began to allegedly lie about the incident, saying he’d spit on the troopers and threw something at their cruiser while skating by. The officers can then be heard bragging about taking Siennick “down like a sack of potatoes” someone they mockingly referred to as their “local anarchist.” “He’s the local pop star,” the officers said.
But a closer examination of the video, which shows the officer kicking the activist in the face, also reveals the displeasure other officers demonstrated during the incident. One of the officers immediately stated, after Luckenbaugh kicked Siennick in the face, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, no, no, no, no,” and seemed to step in and motion for the attack to end. The entire incident, recorded by the officer’s dash cam, led to criminal charges being filed against Luckenbaugh for assault and official oppression charges. Siennick spent two weeks in jail, was released and all charges against him were dropped once the district attorney had a chance to evaluate his case.
Luckenbaug’s trial started Tuesday, and Senior Deputy District Attorney Stephen Zawisky wasted no time attempting to destroy his defense by showing both of the dashcam videos from the night Siennick was assaulted. Neither one of the videos showed Siennick throwing anything at the troopers, nor did it demonstrate the officers had given Siennick any orders to get out of the street. But it did allegedly demonstrate the pair of officers were intent on inflicting injury to the local activist, saying their actions would result in a “BPR” or an internal investigation of abuse by the Penn. State Police.
Penn Live documented the scene in court:
Over defense attorney Edward Spreha Jr,’s periodic objections, Zawisky walked Masteller [officer in charge of the. internal investigations] through the 14 charges Luckenbaugh filed against Siennick and questioned whether any of them were justified. Those counts all were withdrawn and Siennick was released from county prison once the DA’s office began probing the incident.In one of several disorderly conduct charges, Luckenbaugh mentions Siennick’s middle-finger salute.”Is the middle finger considered obscene?” Zawisky asked. “Not for legal purposes,” Masteller replied. Luckenbaug has been suspended without pay by the state police. Trotta was later fired for other misconduct.
Siennick is now filing a civil rights violation lawsuit against the city and the police department. As for Siennick’s reaction to Luckenbaugh’s conviction, it was a simple one — “Cowabunga!”