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A Buffalo cop was acquitted of excessive force charges. But he's still suspended

Accused of using excessive force in three separate incidents, Buffalo Police Officer Corey Krug went through two trials and, at the end of them, walked away a free man, not guilty of all charges.

Three months later, Krug is still off the job, suspended with pay, and still fighting the city's refusal to defend him.

Despite acquittals by two different juries, the city is denying Krug a legal defense in a related civil lawsuit and refusing to indemnify, or protect, him in the event he loses that suit.

Buffalo police have also resumed an internal investigation that was shelved when the 18-year veteran was first charged in connection with the allegations of excessive force.

As was the case in his federal court trials, a WKBW-TV video of Krug confronting a Lackawanna man on Chippewa Street is at the root of the city's insistence that it should not have to defend him.

"They say that a picture says a thousand words," David M. Lee, a lawyer for the city, told the state Court of Appeals last week. "In this case, we have a 30-second video clip."

The arguments before the state's highest court are the latest chapter in Krug's two-year-old lawsuit against the city, a legal challenge that arose from its refusal to defend and indemnify him in a suit brought by Devin Ford.

Ford is the man Krug shoved to the ground and hit several times with a baton during an incident Thanksgiving morning nearly five years ago.

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The city, which is appealing its loss at the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, claims Krug's conduct during that one encounter was so over the line, he could not have been acting within his role as a police officer.

Krug's lawyer reminded the judges that the video is only 28 seconds long and provides no context for why his client did what he did that morning.

"The video still doesn't show the beginning of the encounter, the end of the encounter, what led up to it and what happened after it," said Ian Hayes, a lawyer for Krug.

Hayes said his client's trials provided ample evidence that Ford and his friends had already been in a fight and asked to leave Chippewa when Krug encountered him again.

A number of judges, including Eugene M. Fahey of Buffalo, questioned Lee about his contention that Krug was acting out of the "scope of his employment" when he struck Ford.

Referring to the video and Lee's reference of a picture being worth a thousand words, Fahey said, "The question is this – is it a complete picture?"

Lee said it is and suggested Krug's conduct was egregious enough to leave him outside the protection of the city.

"How can anyone respectfully look at that video and say, 'Oh, that's a public duty performed for the benefit of the citizens of the community?' " he asked.

The judges, however, seemed skeptical.

Like Fahey, a number of them asked if the city ever investigated what happened that morning, and Lee acknowledged the city's decision not to defend Krug is currently based solely on the video. Nothing else.

'There's no disputing that the city did no investigation before it made its decision," said Hayes.

The city's appeal of a lower court ruling ordering it to defend Krug came just three months after the last of his two federal court trials.

Buffalo Police Officer Corey Krug.

In the first trial, after eight days of deliberations, a jury acquitted Krug of three of the four charges and deadlocked on the final charge. The verdict, which came after a two-week trial, meant he was cleared of using excessive force in two of the three incidents at the center of his civil rights prosecution.

The split verdict followed a trial in which prosecutors portrayed Krug as a "bully with a badge," and the defense countered by arguing that his use of force was always justified and reasonable.

When federal prosecutors announced they would retry Krug on the one charge the jury could not agree on, that set the scene for a second trial.

That trial lasted four days and ended with a jury finding him not guilty of using excessive force against Ford.

"The stress is over," Krug said after the verdict. "I just want to get back to work so I can repair my career, repair my reputation."

So far, that hasn't happened.

Krug remains suspended with pay, pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation, Buffalo Police Capt. Jeff Rinaldo said last week. Rinaldo said the department could not proceed with the investigation until the resolution of the criminal case.

Krug's union, the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, has filed a grievance protesting his suspension and expects it will be heard early next year.

PBA President John T. Evans said he also expects the city to offer, as it often does, a "nuisance settlement" in an effort to end the Ford lawsuit.

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