RACINE — The trial of the Racine Police officer accused of using excessive force against a Park High School student in 2015 began Tuesday as last-minute motions were addressed and jurors were selected.
In the courtroom sat family and friends of Brinelle Nabors, 38, who is facing charges of a felony count of misconduct in public office and misdemeanor counts of battery and disorderly conduct. Racine County District Attorney Tricia Hanson was also in attendance.
Special Prosecutor James Kraus from the Kenosha District Attorney’s Office and Nabors’ defense attorney, Patrick Cafferty, agreed that the trial would last until late Thursday evening or Friday morning.
The case is set to continue Wednesday morning, Jan. 9, with opening statements.
Before the jury was selected, Kraus and Cafferty discussed last-minute matters, one of which was the plea deal that had been extended to Nabors. In the deal, the felony count of misconduct in public office against Nabors would have been dropped in exchange for a guilty or no-contest plea to the misdemeanor charges. Nabors rejected that deal.
Cafferty also asked that he able to cross-examine the victim in the case regarding pending criminal charges. Kraus objected, but Racine County Circuit Court Judge Mark Nielsen granted permission.
The civil case, which the victim’s family brought against the City of Racine, Racine Unified School District and others regarding the incident, was also a topic of discussion. The lawsuit ultimately ended when the City of Racine settled for $400,000 with the student and his family in the summer of 2017. Nielsen set parameters as to what could be discussed as far as the civil lawsuit was concerned.
“That the (civil) case is no longer pending goes to credibility, but you may not bring in the fact that it was settled or any amount that was paid,” Nielsen said.
Nabors, working off-duty at Park High School, reported taking a 14-year-old student into custody for bringing drugs to school on Nov. 20, 2015. Nabors said he observed the student with “lean,” a mixture typically containing codeine-based cough syrup, soda, candy and sometimes alcohol. The student and his family said the drink actually was juice.
Nabors handcuffed the student but later allegedly hit him in the face and held him against a locker, according to the criminal complaint. Nabors said the student was showing signs of resistance, which prompted Nabors’ response, although other law enforcement officers disagree.
Another Racine police officer, who witnessed the incident, was interviewed by the Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation. That officer reportedly said the student had not shown “any physically threatening body language.”
The Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office, brought in to prosecute the case to avoid any potential conflict of interest by Racine County prosecutors, reviewed video surveillance footage of the incident and concluded that Nabors had acted in “an excess of the lawful authority of a law enforcement officer.”
The student claimed multiple injuries resulting from the encounter, mostly to his head and face.
Nabors has been on paid administrative leave since December 2015.