Former Houston Astros pitcher Brandon Backe stands to win perhaps $12-15 million in damages if a jury rules his way in a police brutality trial in Texas.
Backe, who pitched in the majors from 2002-2009 mostly with the Astros, testified Tuesday that Galveston, Texas police ruined his career during a melee at a hotel in October 2008. The Stew, in its first season as a blog, had a post on Backe's arrest at the time. It seemed hard to believe then that Backe would take part in a "riot," as police alleged when they arrested him.
The Houston Chronicle has been following the story all along:
Backe and 11 others say they were brutally beaten when more than 30 Galveston police officers burst into a wedding party at the H2O outdoor bar. Police say the accusations are exaggerated and any force used was justified. Backe is asking a jury of six men and six women to award him between $12 million and $15 million for lost income.
Charges against Backe and nine other guests — which included FEMA coordinator Jaime Ferrero — eventually were dropped. A video played in court showed Backe's highlights with the Astros that included the team reaching the World Series in 2005. During his testimony, Backe struggled emotionally to describe police beating one of his friends — who later was airlifted to a Houston hospital — and then Backe himself.
Backe said officer Nicholas McDermott "screamed, 'back the f--- up." Backe said he could back up no farther and told the officer, "Chill out, we can't back up. You've got enough room." At that point several officers attacked him, he said, striking him as he fell to the ground and continuing to beat him until his face was bloody. One kicked him in the face, he said.
When he fell, his shoulder struck a concrete curb that separated the sidewalk from a garden. He said officers kept beating him while he was down.
"I hit the ground hard and they just got on top of me," he said. Backe contends that this is when he his shoulder was so badly damaged it ended his career.
Backe keeps in a jar a piece of bone removed from his shoulder — one of seven pieces that doctors took out — to remind him of what his career might have been. It's true, as defense attorneys have said in court, that Backe's career seemed on the decline before the incident at the hotel. Though he made 31 starts in 2008, he led the league in earned runs allowed. And 2009 was his last season in the majors.
But if a jury finds that police overreacted and went beyond the law, it's easy to see how Backe's peers would err on the side of justice and give Backe what he asks.
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