By JOE GORMAN
YOUNGSTOWN - Jurors found a Manley Avenue man innocent Wednesday of the charge of felonious assault on a police officer.
They did find 33-year-old Marcus Thomas guilty of fleeing and eluding and reduced that charge to a misdemeanor. Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge John Durkin sentenced Thomas to time already served in jail.
Prosecutors said Thomas knocked over Poland village police Officer Russell Beatty III with his car on Aug. 2, 2011, as he was parked in a drive and drove through a lawn trying to get away.
Beatty was looking for the car Thomas was driving because he had made a turn without signaling, and he pulled behind Thomas' car when he spotted it in the drive.
Assistant prosecutor Meghan Brundege told the nine-woman, three-man jury during her closing argument that Thomas admitted to his actions when he called police a few days later to complain about how they treated him before he was arrested.
''This he admitted to when he called the police to complain about their behavior,'' Brundege said.
She said Thomas went through seven stop signs or red lights and was driving faster than 100 mph in a chase that went to the East Side of Youngstown.
Thomas' attorney, Tony Meranto, said that his client was given extra attention because he is a black man who was traveling through a part of Poland where there are no black people.
Meranto said Beatty testified that besides the turn signal violation, he also wanted to check out Thomas because he had no business being on that street. Meranto told the jury the couple who lived in the home whose drive Thomas pulled into testified that their street is a through-street between two busy roads.
Meranto also said Thomas did not run when Beatty talked to him in the drive and that Beatty never complained of being injured.
Brundege told jurors that even if what Meranto said was true about why Beatty really stopped Thomas, that does not excuse his conduct. She said that Beatty was struck by the car as Thomas drove away, and even if he wasn't, legally all jurors had to do was find that Thomas had the intent to harm Beatty.
The trial lasted two days.