Calling the victim in a police-brutality case a "liar" and a "patently unreliable witness," a Philadelphia judge today dismissed the jury and acquitted two ex-police officers of all charges.
After taking several hours to consider a defense motion for judgment of acquittal, meaning the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction, Common Pleas Judge James Murray Lynn granted the motion.
The dramatic turn of events allowed Sheldon Fitzgerald, 32, and Howard Hill III, 33, to hug their relatives and friends and leave the Criminal Justice Center as free men.
They wouldn't comment. Their attorneys said the men would seek to get their jobs back.
David Vernitsky, 40, the graffiti vandal whom the former cops were accused of beating, breaking his jaw and attempting to cover it up on August 26, 2007, was not in the courtroom.
The trial came to a standstill yesterday when graffiti featuring Vernitsky's "OZ" tag was found on a wall and elevator door at the Criminal Justice Center. The judge allowed the jury to view the scribbling before the trial resumed.
A spokesman for the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office today said Vernitsky is not being pursued because there is no direct evidence that he defaced the building.