Just after Valentine's Day, a story hit Oklahoma City headlines that gripped and enraged the general public. An off-duty police officer, Chad Peery, 34, was severely beaten as he attempted to diffuse an altercation at a local bar and to escort the men involved off of the premises.
Assaulting an Off-Duty Police Officer
The attack left Peery paralyzed from the shoulders down. The three men accused in the attack were originally charged with maiming, an Oklahoma assault charge that leads to a maximum penalty of 7 years in prison and a $1,000 fine. They were also charged with conspiracy to commit a felony, which carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
However, a new charge was recently levied against Joshua B. Rinken, 28, of Norman, Jimmy Dan Smith, 28, of Tuttle, and Cadmio Antonio Lopez, 31, of Newcastle, which could lead to life imprisonment upon conviction. The three men were charged last week with a felony count of assault and battery by means of force as is likely to cause death in Oklahoma County District Court. Prosecutors amended the original maiming charge, adding the new felony assault charge as an alternative charge if the case goes to trial.
Jurors will be have the option of finding the men guilty of either the Oklahoma City assault or the lesser maiming charge. Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland says the charge was amended after a consultation with Peery's physician, in which the seriousness of the officer's injuries were clearly defined.
Surveillance video taken at the bar the night of the assault allegedly shows Rinken holding an obviously unconscious Peery upright before dropping him or throwing him to the ground. Both Rinken and Smith are accused of assaulting Officer Peery, while Lopez is accused of keeping others from interceding on Peery's behalf.
Legal Defense Strategies
The Oklahoma assault lawyer for Joshua Rinken argues that the amended assault charge is inflated, saying that Peery's injuries were the result of a bar fight that got out of hand, and that his client did not intend to permanently injure anyone. According to Rinkin's attorney, prosecutors were trying to "hit [Rinken] with everything they've got" in an effort to find the harshest penalty possible.