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Saudi man gets probation for role in fight.

Byline: Rebecca Nolan The Register-Guard

Saying it appeared to him that Eugene police already had delivered punishment at the scene of the crime, a Lane County Circuit Court judge denied a prosecutor's request for jail time and sentenced a Saudi man to 18 months of probation for attempting to assault a police officer during an altercation at a bowling alley.

Judge Gregory Foote on Tuesday also ordered 32-year-old Mohammed Al-Nesayan to perform 80 hours of community service for his role in the March 6, 2003, fight that was captured on police video and nicknamed the "Southtowne beat-down" by some officers.

During sentencing, Foote said that it's up to the court, not police officers, to punish people, and only after a trial and conviction.

"Police may not punish the person, only bring him under control," the judge said. "This court believes that the actions of certain police officers on this occasion involved an element of punishment, and that this should be reflected in the court's sentence."

Special prosecutor Stephen Dingle of the Marion County district attorney's office had requested a 30-day jail term.

Police went to the Southtowne Lanes bowling alley after an employee reported a fight between Al-Nesayan and his younger brother and two other men. An altercation broke out as officers tried to arrest the Saudi brothers, and an in-car video camera recorded the final seconds of the fight. The footage prompted the resignation of officer Aaron Berndt, a probationary officer found to have violated department policy.

On Dec. 16, jurors found the brother, Hatem Al-Nasian, 29, not guilty of resisting arrest and interfering with police. They convicted Al-Nesayan of attempting to assault police officer Chris Harrison and interfering with police. The interfering conviction has since been dismissed, because the statute has been ruled unconstitutional, Foote said.

After the verdict was announced last month, prosecutor Dingle said it "clearly sent the message that Eugene police acted appropriately that night." The judge on Tuesday responded to Dingle's statement.

"Juries don't tell us whether or not the police acted properly, because they are not asked that question," Foote said. "Juries don't tell us how they feel about a situation, and they most assuredly do not `send a message.' '

Attorney Will Childs, who represented Al-Nesayan, said his client did not deserve the jail term requested by the prosecution. "I think the sanction imposed was fair and appropriate," Childs said. "I appreciate the judge's comments and clarity on the case."
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Title Annotation:Courts; Saying the actions of some officers amounted to "an element of punishment," the judge turns down a request for jail time
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 5, 2005
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