Lower fine for policeman who beat teacher in mix-up

A court decided to lower a fine issued against a policeman who seriously injured an African-American teacher after mistaking him for a drug dealer.

The unidentified police officer was ordered to pay 2,800 Euros in a court in Vienna last January over the incident which occurred in an underground station in the city in February 2009. Now the city’s High Court (OLG) ruled that the accused must transfer only 1,680 Euros.

The OLG argued yesterday (Tues) that judges “neglected extenuating causes” in their initial verdict. A spokesman for the OLG explained that the personal description actually really matched the appearance of Mike Brennan who took the officer to court.

Now a disciplinary commission of the Viennese police force is set to decide over whether the lowering of the fine will have consequences for the employment of the policeman. Officials have been criticised for not suspending the main suspect who pleaded not guilty to serious bodily harm charges and appealed the sentence. The man, 38, could have been sentenced to up to three years in prison.

The OLG verdict is legally binding with no opportunities to appeal or call on a higher juridical institution. A colleague who carried out the anti-drug crackdown that day with him was not prosecuted.

Brennan, 34, went on sick leave for several weeks to recover from the fractures and bruises he sustained in the controversial occurrence. The former American football player from Jacksonville, Florida, United States, said in court in January that the plain-clothes officer did not identify himself before knocking him down on the platform. The sports teacher also claimed that the defendant punched him – an accusation the policeman dismissed.

The case was covered by media all over the world. It rekindled a public debate about allegedly widespread xenophobia among police officers in Austria and Vienna in particular.