UPDATE: Lawrence found not guilty of harassment; more serious charge dismissed

Suspended Schenectady Police Officer Darren Lawrence saw one count dismissed and was found not guilt

The most serious charge against suspended Schenectady Police Officer Darren Lawrence related to a 2006 accident was dismissed this morning for lack of evidence. And shortly after 1 p.m., he was found not guilty by a six-member jury of a violation count of harassment.

The dismissal of the misdemeanor count, leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, came this morning after a motion by the defense.

Testimony Tuesday from the alleged passenger in the car, Mark Viscusi, left open the possibility that Viscusi was the driver, not Lawrence.

The dismissal by Colonie Town Justice Norman Massry then left only a violation level harassment count pending against Lawrence. A violation level charge is below a misdemeanor. The six-member jury found him not guilty of that charge.

Lawrence, who city officials are still seeking to fire from his police job, stood trial this week on one count of leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, accused of being the driver that night when the car he and Viscusi were in left the Northway and rolled into a median in October 2006. That charge was the one that was dismissed.

The harassment charge accused Lawrence of attacking Viscusi in the accident’s aftermath. The incident also happened after a night of drinking, Viscusi testified.

Viscusi testified Lawrence attacked him, with Lawrence telling Viscusi he wasn’t going to lose his job as a police officer over the accident. The defense argued that it was Viscusi who started the altercation, fearing for his own license and then his job.

With the dismissal of the misdemeanor count, the defense rested without putting on a witness. Lawrence did not testify.

With the defense resting, attorneys went straight to closing arguments on the harassment case.

Lawrence’s attorney, Michael McDermott, told the jury that the altercation was about Viscusi threatening Lawrence.

“He was telling him he would accuse him of being the driver, and in fact that’s what he did,” McDermott told the jury. “What happened as a result of that? He went through with the threat to Darren, lied to the Colonie Police and Darren has been living with this for four years.”

Lawrence appeared to nod in agreement from the defense table.

Both Lawrence and Viscusi fled the scene. Only Viscusi spoke with police after being found. Lawrence couldn’t be located until later.

Prosecutor Lincy Jacob repeated to the jury what she said in her openings, that the case was about taking responsibility for one’s actions.

She argued that the defense’s assertions about possible Viscusi motives to attack Lawrence didn’t make sense. Lawrence was driving all night. The license that Viscusi supposedly feared losing would not have affected his job.

Jacob noted that police didn’t charge a more serious offense of assault because it was difficult to determine which injuries came from the accident and which came from any attack.

But Jacob showed the jury the photo of Viscusi taken by police, with two black eyes. “Do those look like injuries from a car accident?” she asked.

She also argued that Viscusi testimony should be deemed credible because it would have been easier to say he remembered everything leading up to the accident. But he didn’t. After the night of drinking, he didn’t remember anything of the car ride that left them overturned in Colonie, only remembering being upside down in the car.

Jacob also noted that if Lawrence really was attacked by Viscusi, Lawrence could have gone to the Colonie Police, only a short distance from where they ran. But he didn’t.

Categories: Schenectady County

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