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Ex-Maywood police officer is sentenced

Michael Singleton gets jail time and probation for assault on suspect.

October 18, 2008|Victoria Kim | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles judge sentenced a former Maywood police officer Friday to 18 months in County Jail for ramming a handcuffed suspect's head into the wall, then covering up the incident afterward in a false police report.

Michael Singleton, 43, was convicted in June of assaulting a suspect who had cursed and spat at him, leaving the suspect with a broken nose, parts of his face temporarily paralyzed and intermittent loss of consciousness.

Singleton was also ordered to serve three years' probation upon his release from County Jail, where for his safety he will be housed separately from other inmates.

Earlier this year, a jury deadlocked in favor of acquitting Singleton. His conviction at the retrial was a significant victory for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, which has struggled in the past to win convictions in cases involving police brutality.

Judge Marcelita V. Haynes said she felt jail time was necessary to send a message to officers in positions of power that there will be consequences for abusive actions.

"What bothers me the most is that Mr. Singleton, like myself, we're not entitled to let our anger take over," she said as she sentenced Singleton to the jail term requested by prosecutors "He lost it, and there is a higher standard for him and people in the position of power."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Margo Baxter told reporters outside court that Singleton's conduct was particularly egregious because of his position as a police officer.

"It turns on its head everything you are taught to believe about the police," she said.

Singleton's charges stem from a May 2004 incident in which Singleton and a probationary officer he was training were called out to a neighborhood dispute. As officers took one of the neighbors, Jose Bernal, into custody, Bernal fought the arrest, hurling profanities at the officers and spitting at them.

Once they arrived at the station, a furious Singleton retaliated by pushing Bernal, who was handcuffed, head-first into a wall, Baxter said.

Some of the encounter was captured on a nearby surveillance camera, which prosecutors argued contradicted Singleton's statement that Bernal was violently resisting at that point.

Singleton then wrote in a report that Bernal was injured in a fall, and pressured the trainee to falsify his account, prosecutors said.

The trainee, Joseph Densmore, reported the incident to his supervisors and was subsequently fired. Densmore was a key witness for the prosecution in both trials.

On Friday, Haynes also denied a motion by Singleton's attorney, Michael Stone, asking for a new trial based on what he said was juror misconduct and contradictions in witness statements.

Stone told Haynes that Singleton, a father of two boys who was fired from Maywood and now works as a private investigator, was putting his life back together.

"He's on a good track, and he's at a good place," Stone said.

Outside court, Stone expressed concern about how his client would fare in jail, where he said officers convicted of a crime related to police work are vulnerable.

"The inmates find out who's coming in and what they're coming in for," he said.

A solemn Singleton walked out of the courtroom and embraced his friends and family. He was ordered to return Nov. 4 to begin serving his sentence.

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victoria.kim@latimes.com

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