Assault charges stand
TOWANDA - A judge ruled Friday that there is enough evidence to try Dustin Eugene Curtis of Towanda, who was severely injured and claimed he was beaten by the police, on assault charges.
At the end of Curtis' preliminary hearing on Friday, Towanda Magisterial District Judge Timothy Clark bound over the following charges against Curtis to the Court of Common Pleas of Bradford County: one count of aggravated assault, two counts of simple assault, one count of disorderly conduct, three counts of harassment, one count of public drunkenness, and one count of criminal mischief.
Towanda Police Officer Josh Lake testified at the hearing that, contrary to Curtis' claim that he had been beaten by the police, no police officer had touched him.
And none of the five Memorial Hospital emergency medical staff who treated Curtis for his injuries mentioned in their testimony any evidence of a beating.
The medical personnel who treated Curtis testified that he had suffered severe cuts to his wrist, arm, and hand, which Emergency Room physician Gary Merritts said are consistent with the cuts someone would suffer if they broke a window with their hand.
The injuries which Curtis suffered are "consistent with broken-glass injuries," Merritts testified.
Towanda Police Officer Josh Lake testified about the beginning of the July 7 incident that led to the charges being filed against the 21-year-old Curtis. Lake said he had been summoned to the area of Main and Washington streets in Towanda on the night of July 7 by fellow police officer John Werner, who reported that someone had "just punched out a window (in downtown Towanda), and was bleeding badly and was running" from the scene.
The window that was broken was in the Procair building at 507 1/2 Main St., Lake said.
Police were able to track down Curtis, who is accused of breaking the window, by following a trail of blood to the top of a stairwell at 521 Main St., Lake said.
EMT Burke Jenkins, who treated Curtis at the scene, said that Curtis had "severe bleeding" from his hand, wrist and arm, and that his cuts were potentially lethal if he had not been treated. But Curtis "didn't quite understand the seriousness" of the injuries, Burke said.
Steve Berwick, a paramedic who treated Curtis at the scene, testified that Curtis "had blood squirting" from his hand.
Jenkins testified that when he tried to help bandage Curtis' wounds, Curtis resisted and "pushed or slapped my hand away."
Eventually, emergency medical personnel were able to stabilize Curtis medically at the scene, and they and police escorted him downstairs so that he could be taken by ambulance to Memorial Hospital.
Lake said that when the police and EMTs emerged with Curtis from 521 Main St., there was a "large crowd that was hostile to us. The defendant said, '(The police) were up there beating on me.' He (Curtis) said I hit him. People tried to pull (Curtis) away from" the police and EMTs who were escorting him, Lake said.
But Lake testified that the police had not touched Curtis, except to escort him through the crowd to the ambulance.
Police were able to guide Curtis through the crowd to the ambulance, which transported him to Memorial Hospital's Emergency Room, Lake said.
All five medical personal who testified said that Curtis exhibited evidence of intoxication, such as combative behavior, an odor of alcohol on his breath, slurred speech, and bloodshot eyes.
A blood screening that was done on Curtis after he had arrived at the hospital, which measured the amount of alcohol in his system, indicated that Curtis was highly intoxicated, Merritts said.
Medical personnel testified that Curtis became combative in the ambulance so that they could not start an IV, and that he was very argumentative with medical staff at the hospital.
"He was very belligerent toward staff and police, and was using vulgar language and was not cooperative in what we were trying to do to help him," paramedic Kelly Jo Maines-McKernan said of Curtis' behavior at the hospital.
Lake testified that Curtis kicked him in his lower right hip when they were in the ambulance, and then tried to kick him three more times. Lake said he was not injured.
Nurse James Laurie testified that Curtis spat in his face when they were in the Emergency Room, and that, according to the hospital's protocol, he had to have tests done to be sure he did not become infected with a disease.
In his closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Al Ondrey stated that, during the July 7 incident, Curtis had threatened to kill Officer Lake and EMT Jenkins.
Not all of the charges that had been lodged against Curtis were bound over to Common Pleas Court. Two counts of aggravated assault and one count of simple assault were dismissed by Judge Clark at the end of the preliminary hearing.
At the end of the preliminary hearing, Judge Clark released Curtis on non-monetary bail. Curtis is scheduled to be arraigned in Common Pleas Court on Sept. 13.
James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: email@example.com.