Risky trial nears for ex-cop accused of choking former NFL player

<p>David Rose acknowledged Wednesday that turning down the plea deal puts him at risk for prison if he&#39;s indicted for felonies.</p>
<p>David Rose acknowledged Wednesday that turning down the plea deal puts him at risk for prison if he&#39;s indicted for felonies.</p>

Credit: � 2019 Cox Media Group.

Credit: � 2019 Cox Media Group.

Former Henry County police officer David Rose moved one step closer to a trial Wednesday in pleading not guilty to a five-count indictment stemming from his role in the violent arrest of a former NFL cornerback.

In March he rejected, at the last minute, a plea deal that carried a sentence of 12 months probation for choking Desmond Marrow following a 2017 traffic stop. Now Rose is charged with multiple felonies that could land him in prison for up to 16 years.

His attorney, Lee Sexton, said the manner in which the case was handled by Henry police chief Mark Amerman and his chief deputy, Mike Ireland, is sure to be a part of his client’s defense.

“This case should’ve never been indicted,” Sexton said. Rose, according to his lawyer, believes police officials “threw him under the bus.”

An internal investigation initially exonerated Rose, concluding that Marrow’s movements caused Rose’s hand to slip around the neck.

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But once cell phone video showing the scuffle went viral, Amerman fired Rose, saying the department “does not tolerate this type of conduct from its officers.” Rose is seen on the video choking Marrow as he lay on the ground, handcuffed.

Amerman pointed to a just-completed internal investigation that found Rose had applied unnecessary force against the former athlete, who had been pulled over for an alleged incident of road rage.

What he didn’t say was investigators had already seen that video when they cleared Rose. Moreover, they had evidence that Rose contradicted his official account denying the chokehold, including this admission to his partner, Matthew Donaldson, captured on dashcam video: “I’m not going to write it down, but hell yeah I choked that (expletive deleted).”

Citing the pending investigation, Henry police have declined comment. District Attorney Darius Pattillo has also withheld comment, citing the ongoing case.

“If (Sexton) is alleging something weird happened, so are we,” said attorney Chris Stewart, part of Marrow’s defense team. They have struggled to interest local, state and federal officials in an investigation of Henry officials.

Stewart said the scandal extends beyond police administrators. County commissioners were also aware of the initial investigation that cleared Rose; only one, Bruce Holmes, expressed concerns about how the investigation was handled. “I’m beginning to feel that people are hiding information,” he wrote in an email to Amerman on Dec. 7.

A civil suit filed on behalf of Marrow seeks to ensure some accountability, Stewart said.

“It’s about their position politically and money,” he said. “And that’s fine; we’ll continue down this path and continue to say publicly what is happening in the civil case, so people can see what their leadership is truly doing.”

Rose, meanwhile, maintains his innocence. Sexton said Rose followed his training and acted in self-defense. An immunity hearing will precede the trial and, if successful, would force prosecutors to vacate some of the charges against Rose, who wants to be a cop again.

Terms of his plea agreement would’ve made that impossible. Rose is out on bond and will be back in court next month for a motions hearing.