A New Orleans police officer charged with domestic abuse battery was found not guilty this week after a one-day non-jury trial, clearing the way for him to return to full duty.
The officer, Marcel Albert, 49, had been accused of choking his wife and squeezing her ankles and wrists at their New Orleans East home in August 2013.
Prosecutors charged Albert with a felony last year but elected on the eve of the trial to pursue a reduced misdemeanor count, said Bruce Whittaker, Albert’s defense attorney.
Whittaker said his client felt vindicated by the verdict, rendered Wednesday by Judge Tracey Flemings-Davillier, of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.
He said it had been demeaning for Albert to be assigned to desk duty during the lengthy legal proceedings.
“He felt wrongly accused,” Whittaker said. “As long as that accusation was there, it certainly was a cloud hanging over his reputation.”
Albert has returned to full duty in the NOPD’s Traffic Division, said Tyler Gamble, a Police Department spokesman.
The officer’s wife claimed an argument turned violent late one night after she came home and was asked by her husband whether she’d been drinking. The woman, responding officers noted in a police report, appeared to be “under the influence of an unknown alcoholic beverage.”
Albert’s wife claimed her husband had taken her keys and “would not let her leave,” the report said. Albert admitted restraining his wife — holding her arms at one point — because he believed she was too intoxicated to drive, Whittaker said, but he denied choking her.
Albert’s colleagues did not arrest him the night of the incident, but prosecutors charged him several months later.
Complaining of wrist pain, the alleged victim sought medical attention the next day, court documents show, telling a nurse she had endured domestic abuse over the course of a year. The woman said she felt she had not been treated fairly by police because of her husband’s position. Albert’s brother, Darryl Albert, is a deputy superintendent at the NOPD.
Whittaker said one important factor in the case was the fact the alleged victim’s sister encouraged her to return home the night of the incident.
“I think the judge, correctly, saw that as an indication that the sister certainly did not think (Albert) was a threat to anyone, and it certainly undermined any claim that there had been a history of violence in the marriage,” Whittaker said.
Albert’s wife, Whittaker added, “was not credible, because there were other things she admitted having lied about for months, including where she’d been that night.”
A spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
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