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It took a federal jury about an hour and a half Monday to find in favor of a Utah County sheriff's deputy accused of pushing a Provo woman who had been talking during a movie down the theater steps in 2004.
Peter Stirba, a lawyer for Sgt. Harold "Skip" Curtis declared that justice has been done. Curtis said he is relieved there no longer is a cloud hanging over him.
"Your reputation and the way you serve is a pretty big part of being a police officer," he said.
Vanessa Arnold, 26, says she has vision problems and severe headaches that make it impossible for her to work, and is now disappointed and frightened of all police.
Her attorney, S. Austen Johnson, said he will appeal. To win, Arnold was required to prove Curtis used excessive force and its use was "shocking to the conscience."
Johnson said the case should have hinged on whether Curtis had the authority to make an arrest at the theater at all.
One juror said the high standard led to the finding for the lawman. Most members of the nine-man, three-woman panel were leaning toward finding in favor of Arnold at first, but eventually agreed that the alleged actions fell short of being "shocking to the conscience," he said. There were also too many conflicting accounts from witnesses, he said.
The five-day trial centered on those accounts from Arnold, Curtis and other moviegoers at a May 23, 2004, showing of "Troy" in Provo.
Arnold says she and friend Lorenzo Castillo were talking during the previews but quiet when the movie began playing. However, she said, Curtis called her a "bitch" and kept glaring at her and Castillo.
She alleged that when the film concluded, Curtis demanded Castillo pay for his and his wife's movie tickets. He refused and Curtis placed him under arrest, Arnold said.
And when she protested, Curtis grabbed her by the arms and slammed her down the stairs, Arnold testified.
Curtis, however, said Castillo came to him with fists clenched and he arrested him to defuse the situation. He testified Arnold grabbed him three times - once by the arm, once around the waist, and once when she jumped on his back - as he tried to lead Castillo from the theater.
He acknowledged that when she tried to grab him again, he pushed her back - but that was up the stairs, not down. Curtis said he later noticed her lying on the stairs, but he didn't know how she got there.
The 5-foot-3-inch, 110-pound woman was seeking an award of several million dollars for physical injuries, pain and suffering and past and future loss of earnings.
Castillo, who was released outside the movie theater, sued for false arrest and settled his claim out of court. Stirba said the settlement was reached for practical reasons and Castillo was paid "nuisance money."