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City policeman charged in beating

A Philadelphia policeman was charged yesterday by the district attorney's office in the alleged beating two months ago of William Cradle, who had run a stop sign in Society Hill.

A warrant was issued for the arrest of patrolman Lyle Sprague on seven criminal charges, including aggravated assault, obstructing justice, falsifying police reports and conspiracy. If convicted in Common Pleas Court, Sprague would face a maximum sentence of 30 years' imprisonment.

Deputy District Attorney Esther Sylvester said the investigation of the alleged beating was continuing and that if witnesses could identify other officers who participated, they also would be arrested.

The Inquirer reported on May 15 that Cradle was pinned against his car by three police officers while two other officers beat him with nightsticks in the abdomen, legs, arms, chest and head. About five other police officers looked on during the incident, which occurred on April 29.

The U. S. attorney's office in Philadelphia is also investigating the case. A federal grand jury, which will be impaneled July 19 to hear evidence of alleged crimes by police, is expected to hear testimony on the Cradle case.

Sprague, who is vacationing this week in Florida, is expected to surrender himself to the district attorney's office on July 22, a source in the district attorney's office said.

Sprague could not be reached or comment.

Sprague was charged with two of the same crimes – aggravated assault and simple assault – with which he originally charged Cradle. The district attorney's office dropped the charges against Cradle last month because of the serious injuries he had sustained during the eating.

The district attorney also charged that Sprague "did knowing give false statements and a false report . . . to implicate Cradle."  The district attorney charged that the beating showed an "extreme indifference to the value of human life."

According to court records, two other police officers – Raymond Casper and Roy Land – were on the scene during the incident, which occurred at Fifth and Spruce Streets, Casper and Land both signed complaints that day charging Cradle with assaulting officers and resisting arrest.

According to witnesses, the incident began when Cradle, 23, an instrument technician, ran a stop sign at third and Fitzwater Streets. After being stopped by police and made to wait in his car for about seven minutes, Cradle became anxious about his wife, Carol, who was waiting to be picked up at work.

He said that he asked a police officer why there was a delay and that the officer responded, "Take your black ass back into the car."

Cradle drove slowly away and continued until he was stopped again by police, this time at Fifth and Spruce Streets. There according to witnesses, Cradle was dragged from his car and battered with nightsticks. Two of the clubs broke when they struck his shoulders and head, witnesses said.

Cradle was treated at Metropolitan Hospital for injuries to his ribs, shoulders, knees, back, legs and head.