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Hudson Valley Press

February 9th, 2011

Beacon jury exonerates victim of criminal charges

Beacon - On Monday, January 31st, a City of Beacon jury unanimously acquitted Olivia Kulsha, aged 24 and a resident of Fishkill, of four criminal charges arising from the Beer Crawl which took place on March 14, 2009. Beacon police had accused Ms. Kulsha of disorderly conduct, creating a riot, resisting arrest and assault in the second degree. The jury rejected the testimony of four Beacon Police Officers and exonerated Ms. Kulsha after just 28 minutes of deliberation.

Ms. Kulsha testified in her own defense, explaining that several police officers beat and mauled her boyfriend, Kevin Fleming, as she walked hand in hand with him through the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot on Fishkill Avenue and toward a waiting taxi cab. Observing her boyfriend being bitten by two police dogs, Ms. Kulsha protested that the police officers stop their aggressive behavior. She was directed to sit at the edge of the parking lot and complied. As she continued to deplore the police brutality, an MTA police officer physically assaulted and arrested Ms. Kulsha. Beacon police officers then transported her to the Beacon Police Station where a male officer, Joseph Conte, verbally degraded her, calling her a "fat b..." When Ms. Kulsha told Office Conte he did not deserve his badge, he struck her in the face, knocking her out and causing a black eye.

In contrast to her account, the police officers gave contradictory testimony justifying their arrest of Ms. Kulsha and their use of force against her. Officer Conte claimed that Ms. Kulsha assaulted him by kicking him intentionally in the groin.

Michael Sussman, counsel for Ms. Kulsha, commented, "I applaud the jury for its rapid rejection of these charges. Citizen-jurors must set limits on police excess and hold police officers accountable for their abuse of authority. The evidence showed that Olivia was merely reacting to the unjust beating of her boyfriend who had been departing from this publicly-sponsored event with her. The use of force against both of them was wholly unnecessary."

The Beacon police also charged Mr. Fleming and another victim of police force, Thomas Vitolo with crimes arising from the same event. The Beacon City Court dismissed charges against both men last fall and they have initiated federal civil rights litigation stemming from their false arrests and the use of excessive force against them. Ms. Kulha intends to file a similar lawsuit.

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