Laurel police sergeant acquitted in cruiser assault, misconduct trial

WASHINGTON — A Laurel police sergeant indicted for assault and misconduct in office after prosecutors said he hit a dirt bike rider with his marked cruiser and pulled his handgun has been acquitted by a Prince George’s County judge.

Sgt. Jason Sarver was found not guilty of second-degree assault and misconduct in office, Tuesday, after a two-day trial in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. At the end of testimony and evidence, Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Leo Green had dismissed a second misconduct in office count.

Sarver had initially been indicted on Oct. 31, 2017 on 11 counts related to the attempted traffic stop of the rider, who had been driving the dirt bike in Laurel. Before the trial, eight of the counts were dismissed.

“The judge said he was legally justified in doing what he did,” said defense attorney Jeff Harding.

In explaining his verdict, Green said he didn’t feel prosecutors proved that Sarver intentionally hit the rider during the pursuit, based on body camera and cruiser footage.

“He was ecstatic that his actions had been vindicated in a court of law” Harding said, describing Sarver’s reaction to the verdict. “He complied completely with police procedures.”

Harding had argued Sarver’s cruisers did not actually strike the motorcycle.

During the trial, a defense expert witness, Gary Lewis, a retired Montgomery County detective, gave the opinion there was never any contact between the dirt bike and the officer’s cruiser.

“While we respect the decision of the court, we disagree with the outcome,” said John Erzen, spokesman for State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks. “We believe the evidence in this case showed that Officer Sarver intentionally struck the victim during the pursuit and that his actions were criminal in nature.”

After an internal investigation, Laurel Police contacted the state’s attorney’s office, which led to the indictment.

Harding said Sarver has been on leave without pay.

“He hasn’t decided what he intends to do, moving forward,” Harding said, when asked whether Sarver would want to rejoin the force that determined he had acted unlawfully.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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