Ellen Thomas, a special agent at the FBI’s West Palm Beach office, took the stand on the fourth day of a federal trial, in which Officer Michael Brown and former officers Justin Harris and Ronald Ryan are accused of beating up a suspect and lying about it.
Thomas, with the FBI’s public corruption and civil rights unit, told jurors of the changes to reports, including tweaked wording and added or omitted details, as well as the date and time of the changes.
Thomas took the case sometime after Boynton Beach Police Chief Jeffrey Katz sought the FBI’s assistance with the investigation of the officers.
Brown, Ryan and Harris all filed reports on the night of Aug. 20, 2014, after the alleged beating that happened at the end of police pursuing a Mitsubishi.
One week later, after the police department found out the beating was caught on video by a Palm Beach County sheriff’s helicopter, Brown, Ryan and Harris adjusted the reports to reflect the use of force against the occupants of the Mitsubishi in the car chase, Thomas said.
The defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges that could send them to prison if they are convicted.
Their defense attorneys argue the changes to the paperwork were made to improve their accuracy. During the trial, the clear suggestion from the defense has been there are too many unknowns and uncertainties to prove the officers used excessive force and to hold the officers criminally liable.
This story will be updated.
Visit our ‘Sun Sentinel: Boynton Beach’ community page at facebook.com/BoyntonBeach.