Suspended BSO deputy defends self in trial
Updated On: Apr 18 2013 08:24:14 AM EDT
A suspended Broward Sheriff's Office deputy accused of beating a teenager after a traffic stop and writing a false report about it testified in his own defense Wednesday.
"[I'm] a little nervous because I'm on trial and I'm innocent," said Gerald Wengert.
Wengert, 34, was arrested in July 2012 and charged with battery, falsifying records and official misconduct. He was suspended without pay after his arrest.
During a December 1, 2010, traffic stop, Wengert, a featured deputy on TLC's show "Unleashed Broward County," arrested Mark Visconti, then 17, the sheriff's office said.
Wengert arrested Visconti on charges of resisting arrest and battery on a law enforcement officer. According to Wengert's arrest warrant, the deputy initially reported that Visconti was driving recklessly on Stirling Road. Once the teen was pulled over, Wengert said Visconti got out of his car and resisted arrest.
"I'm fighting, you know, I need help," he said. "Off-duty personnel are there trying to help me as well."
An internal affairs investigation indicated that Wengert, who was never dispatched to the scene, arrived while on the phone with his girlfriend, Jessica Mercer. A witness said Visconti and his passenger saw two of their friends on the street and decided to pick them up, stopping at a stop sign and delaying Mercer.
Visconti then drove to a nearby Wendy's restaurant, the warrant said, followed by Mercer. As Visconti and his friends left the Wendy's, Wengert pulled into the plaza.
Wengert then pulled Visconti over about a half mile away, "yanked him out of the car, threw him against the car and began aggressively searching him," the report said. A witness said Wengert punched Visconti several times and put him in a headlock. Visconti suffered injuries to his face and legs and was taken to the hospital.
Wengert admitted to a mistake in his police report, but said he made no willful attempt to omit crucial information.
"There is an error. The error is I used military time and I accidentally put 0 for 3:15 hours and it's supposed to be 15:15 hours," he said.
Wengert remains free on bond. Another full day of testimony is expected before closing arguments begin.
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