OCALA — An all-white federal jury has found a white Florida sheriff's deputy not guilty in the beating of an unarmed black man who was being arrested.
Jesse Alan Terrell was one of five former Marion County sheriff's deputies prosecuted by the federal government for beating Derrick Price during a 2014 arrest on drug charges.
The other deputies, who also were white, pleaded guilty and await sentencing. Each testified against Terrell.
The Ocala Star-Banner reported that the jury of eight women and four men took less than two hours Friday to acquit Terrell, 33. He had been charged with deprivation of civil rights under color of law. He faced up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
"I'm very excited to get back to life with my son and family," Terrell said.
Price's attorney declined comment after the trial. Price still faces drug charges in the case.
The newspaper reported that jurors declined comment after the courtroom emptied.
In closing arguments, U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley said Price had surrendered before the beating, which he called excessive and unreasonable.
The Aug. 7, 2014, altercation was caught on surveillance video in a Marion Oaks parking lot. The video showed Price flat on the ground and stretching out his arms, and still Terrell struck Price 22 times on and around his neck, Bentley said.
"That defies common sense," Bentley said.
Price previously spent time in federal prison on drug charges, and he never filed a complaint about the beating because he feared no one would believe him, Bentley said.
Michael J. Saxe, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 145, which represents sheriff's deputies, said the union approved of the jury's decision.
"The jury in the Terrell case was afforded the opportunity to see all the evidence and hear all of the testimony of the witnesses. The FOP stands by the decision and we appreciate the efforts and dedication it took to come to that conclusion," Saxe wrote in a statement.
Whitfield Jenkins, past president of the local chapter of the NAACP, said the verdict was evidence of a legal system that doesn't deliver justice for black citizens of Marion County.
"Rather than by mobs, the legal system lynches them in full public view every day," he wrote in an email to the Star-Banner.