A Fairfax County judge had harsh words on Friday for prosecutors in the case of police officer Tyler Timberlake, saying he had “a great deal of concern” about the reliability of statements made to a previous judge in the case.
But Judge Brett Kassabian stopped short of dismissing all charges, saying “I want to think about it” and saying he would have a decision in seven to 10 days.
Timberlake is the Fairfax County police officer who is facing three misdemeanor assault charges after he used a stun gun on LaMonta Gladney, and hit him with the device, in the Mount Vernon section on June 5, 2020.
Timberlake’s lawyers have asked the judge to dismiss the charges because Fairfax County prosecutors haven’t followed an order to turn over evidence that could support his case, including a statement from Gladney which the defense says suggests he was on PCP at the time.
“They’re now ignoring the Constitution, which says it should be promptly turned over,” said defense lawyer Brandon Shapiro.
Both lawyers ran afoul of the judge at points in the hearing.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Dennis Somech pointed out that the trial is set for September 2022, and the deadline to turn over evidence was still 11 months away. He called dismissal “an extraordinary remedy. We understand its importance to Officer Timberlake. It’s also important to Fairfax County.”
Kassabian asked Somech: “Do you think you have the right to hold off on turning over exculpatory material as soon as you learn of it? Yes or no?”
Somech responded, “I 100% agree it should be disclosed as soon as possible. I don’t know if it has. The case should not be dismissed.”
Shapiro said twice, “This is not a murder case — it’s three misdemeanors.” The second time, Kassabian told him, “The seriousness of the charges doesn’t matter to me. We’re talking about the rules.”
Timberlake was recorded on another officer’s body camera during the incident. Gladney was disoriented, walking in circles around the street, and did not appear combative. He was charged with being drunk in public and resisting arrest, but the charges were dropped.
Another officer was shown trying to reason with him when Timberlake, who appeared to have just arrived, walks into the frame and uses his stun gun almost immediately. He also hits Gladney with either his fist or the stun gun itself and kneels on the man’s back.
Prosecutors and Timberlake’s lawyers have all said Timberlake mistook Gladney for someone else. He called the man “Anthony” during the incident.
Gladney is Black; Timberlake is white. Shapiro said, referring to the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano, “From the beginning, this office has brought a political agenda to go after Officer Timberlake.” Descano campaigned and won on a judicial reform.
“I’m going to take it under advisement,” Kassabian said. “I’m not certain the draconian measure of dismissal is appropriate in this case. I want to think about it.” He repeated, “I want to think about it. I’ll have a letter to you in seven to 10 days.”
Both sides left the courtroom without comment.
Descano’s office said later in a statement, “We remain confident in the merits of this case, and will continue to do everything in our power to ensure a jury of Fairfax County residents determines its outcome.”
Timberlake’s attorney said he remains on administrative leave. A police spokesman said the department’s internal affairs investigation will continue after Timberlake’s criminal case is resolved.