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Two Houston ex-officers plead no contest in videotaped beating

By Andrea Lorenz

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Two former Houston police officers accused of using excessive force against a teenage burglary suspect in a high-profile incident pleaded no contest on Wednesday to official oppression, a misdemeanor, their attorneys and a special prosecutor said.

The 2010 case made national news after a video showed a number of officers kicking and striking Chad Holley, an African American youth, several times as he lay on the ground with his hands behind his head, and again after he was handcuffed.

Former officers Raad Hassan, 43, and Philip Bryan, 47, had initially been charged with official oppression and violating civil rights of a person in custody, but the civil rights charge was dropped as a part of the agreement.

The oppression charge carries a maximum one-year jail term, but both agreed to two years of deferred adjudication and to pay court costs, with Bryan owing a $500 fine and Hassan $750. By pleading no contest, both receive automatic 10-year suspensions on their peace officer licenses.

"Their Texas law enforcement careers are over," Special Prosecutor Jon Munier said. "Punishment-wise, it may appear not to be a great punishment, but in reality, it is a significant punishment."

The video, recorded by a security camera at a nearby business, sparked outrage in the community, with angry residents attending town meetings and rallies after its release. When former officer Andrew Blomberg was acquitted by an all-white jury a year ago, community members protested at the courthouse.

The national spokesman for the New Black Panther Nation, Quanell X, who said was he speaking on behalf of Holley, criticized the plea deal, saying the officers should have received jail time and that the Holley family should have been consulted.

Seven Houston police officers were fired over the incident, and four were charged with crimes related to the incident.

In an unrelated case, Holley pleaded guilty earlier this month to a felony burglary charge and received six months in jail and seven years of probation.

Another officer facing charges from the 2010 incident, Drew Ryser, 32, "respectfully declined" the plea offer on Tuesday, his attorney Carson Joachim said. His trial is set to start Monday.

Attorneys for Hassan and Bryan said the men were glad to be moving forward in their lives.

"There's risk associated with trial for both sides, obviously, and this was an agreement that both parties felt was the right way to go," said Bryan's attorney, Aaron Suder.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan, Cynthia Johnston and Bob Burgdorfer)

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