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Airman's wife charges Webb jury with bias

Jurors `had their minds set' on freeing the former sheriff's deputy, Mariela Carrion says.

July 03, 2007|Maeve Reston | Times Staff Writer

Halfway across the country on an Air Force base in Louisiana, the wife of an airman who was shot by a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy called on federal prosecutors Monday to intervene after a local jury acquitted the deputy of all charges.

Mariela Carrion, 21, said she was stunned by the verdict and that justice would not be served unless former San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy Ivory John Webb Jr. was behind bars.

"We wanted him to serve his time for what he did," said Mariela Carrion, the wife of Air Force police officer Elio Carrion, who survived three bullet wounds in the videotaped shooting. "There wasn't a fair trial.... The jury already had their minds set on freeing Mr. Webb."

"San Bernardino County makes police officers above the law, which nobody is," she said in a telephone interview from Barksdale Air Force Base.

Elio Carrion was saddened by the verdict, his wife said, but reticent to share his feelings about it, even with her.

He declined to comment about the verdict. Carrion has filed a federal civil lawsuit against Webb, the Sheriff's Department and San Bernardino County.

Earlier Monday, Carrion's attorney and members of the family met with federal prosecutors in Los Angeles to press for federal civil rights charges against Webb.

Carrion's attorney, Luis Carrillo, said afterward that he felt reassured that federal authorities would take a fresh look at the evidence, but that federal prosecutors gave no indication of whether they would pursue the case or how long it would take them to decide.

Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, offered no comment on the meeting or what was discussed.

Elio Carrion, 23, was home on leave after a six-month tour in Iraq on the night of the 2006 shooting. He was a passenger in a Corvette that led Webb and one other deputy on a high-speed car chase through Chino, which ended in a crash and the confrontation between Webb and Carrion.

Carrion was intoxicated and tried to explain to Webb that he was in the military and meant "no harm."

On the video, Webb shot Carrion as the airman appeared to be following the deputy's order to get up from where he was sprawled on the ground.

Last week, a San Bernardino jury acquitted Webb of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm, charges that could have sent him to prison for more than 18 years.

Throughout the trial, Webb's attorney, Michael Schwartz portrayed Carrion as drunk, noncompliant and disrespectful to the officer that night -- a viewpoint some jurors echoed in their statements after the acquittal.

Mariela Carrion said she was hurt and offended by the way her husband was portrayed during the trial and by the sharp criticism from Southern California bloggers about his actions that night.

She said she was deeply offended by Schwartz's denunciations of her husband -- particularly the insinuation that an officer might have mistaken him for a gang member because he was wearing an Oakland Raiders jacket similar to those worn by members of a Chino gang.

"I wanted to be there [at the trial] ... for everybody to know what actually happened and not just Webb's side of the story ... so people could see our reaction and how the family feels, and how I felt," she said. Because of Carrion's duties, he and his wife had to return to Louisiana after he testified.

His aunt, Connie Madrigal, told reporters outside the U.S. attorney's office in downtown Los Angeles that she believed the jury was biased.

She and other family members argued that the jury was not diverse enough because it contained only one Latino, along with three African Americans and eight whites. Webb is black and Carrion is Latino.

"The jury was really not a diverse, fair cross-section of the community; it was not really representative of the community," Carrillo said. "If they file charges in the [federal court's] Central District ... we will have a more diverse group of jurors so that different viewpoints can be heard."

Webb's attorney dismissed the criticism of his client and of the San Bernardino County jury, saying the Carrion family had "a financial and emotional investment" in the case because of the pending civil case against Webb and the county.

"They probably will never come to grips with the fact that their son acted irresponsibly as well as in direct defiance of the law that night," Schwartz said.

maeve.reston@latimes.com

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