By Jeanne LeFlore
A McAlester police officer was arraigned in Pittsburg County District Court on Friday after being charged with felony assault and battery for allegedly tasing a handcuffed woman at point-blank range.
On Friday, McAlester Police Officer Sterling Lee Taylor-Santino pleaded not guilty to one count of felony assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. He was released on his own recognizance pending a Dec. 14 hearing at 9 a.m.
If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in the state penitentiary, according to court documents.
Because of the charge, Taylor’s duties with the McAlester Police Department will change, according McAlester Police Chief Jim Lyles.
“He will be moved to a desk job until the conclusion of the court proceedings,” Lyles said Friday.
On a June 24 police video available at www.mcalesternews.com, a woman, Nakina Williams, 28, of McAlester, can been seen with her hands cuffed and lifted behind her on a counter at the Pittsburg County Jail. She appears to spit at Taylor-Santino who then fires a Taser, striking Williams in the left breast.
According to court records, Williams was given a 10-year suspended sentence for felony assault and battery on a police officer, public intoxication and expectorating on a police officer. She said she has scars on her hands from the handcuffs and on her chest from the probes being pulled out by another police officer.
According to MPD’s Taser handling policy, “The suspect shall be taken to an emergency care facility for removal of the dart in cases where it has ... penetrated the female breast ...”
An MPD “Use of Force Report” written by Taylor after the incident and signed by MPD Capt. David Bailey states: “Subject had spit on officer and was fixing to spit on officer again force was used to stop action.”
Taylor-Santino was later put on two weeks unpaid suspension for violating police policy on Taser use, according to Lyles.
Taylor-Santino was charged after the case was handed to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation by the office of District 17 District Attorney Mark Matloff.
According to an affidavit by OSBI Special Agent Adams S. Whitney, Taylor-Santino “without justifiable or excusable cause, assault and batter one Nakina Williams with a Taser with intent to do Nakina Williams bodily harm, contrary to the form of the statutes made and provided, and against the peace and dignity of the State of Oklahoma.”
McAlester attorney Jeremy Beaver, who represents Williams, was at the courthouse on Friday when the charges were filed.
“Nakina is relieved and grateful that this charge was filed today,” Beaver said. “We thank the McCurtain County District Attorney’s office and the OSBI for their diligence and professionalism.
“All we have ever asked is that Officer Taylor be treated the same as any other person. ... That appears to be happening.”
He said “while we cautiously optimistic about the future of this case, we also know that this is just the first step towards bringing Officer Taylor to justice.”
Taylor-Santino was asked about his case before Friday’s courtroom proceedings but he declined comment.
The case was originally investigated by MPD before being turned over to the District 18 District Attorney’s office. The local prosecutor, District 18 Attorney Farley Ward, requested a recusal from the case in September because the DA’s office handles cases involving the MPD and Taylor-Santino, according to First Assistant District 18 Attorney Richard Hull.