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Former Franklin Township Officer Pleads Guilty To Using Excessive Force

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Justice Department officials announced that a former Franklin Township officer pleaded guilty to using excessive force during a May 2018 arrest.

Robert Wells, 49, pleaded guilty to deprivation of rights under color of law, a federal charge that can result into up to 10 years in prison. Benjamin Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, announced the deal Wednesday along with the FBI and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien.

Wells resigned from the department after cellphone video emerged of the May 1 arrest, during which he kicked a restrained suspect in the head. Officers stopped the car of 18-year-old Anthony Foster Jr., who then fled and “continued driving recklessly." Officers eventually stoppoed the car and removed Foster from the vehicle.

"Quite clearly there was a violation of both state law and federal law," O'Brien said. "Talking to Ben Glassman, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of Ohio, he felt it was important, as did I, to pursue the case as a federal civil rights violation to send a message that that kind of conduct will not be tolerated as a law enforcement officer."

The video of the incident shows one officer pinning Foster on the ground while Wells comes over and kicks him in the head.

“This deprived the victim of his Constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by a law enforcement officer and resulted in bodily injury to the victim,” reads a Justice Department press release.

“Additionally,” the release states, “Wells then made false and misleading statements in his report relating to the arrest of the victim in order to cover up the excessive force and create a false understanding of the circumstances surrounding the arrest and injury.”

Wells was an employee of the Ohio Lottery Commission as well as a part-time officer. He was previously fired by the Pataskala Police department in 2002 after a similar incident, in which video showed him and a partner punching and kicking an 18-year-old suspect.

"We cannot have one officer engaging in conduct like this that adversely reflects on everyone who is a police officer," O'Brien said. "So Mr. Wells was charged, he did plead guilty, and will be held accountable at the time of his sentencing."

Prosecutors declined to bring felony charges against Wells at the time, although he did plead guilty to misdemeanor assault.