Trial for ex-Crawford County deputies in federal use-of-force case to get new date

FORT SMITH -- The jury trial for two former Crawford County Sheriff's Office deputies who face federal civil rights charges in connection with the use of force during an arrest that was recorded and went viral in August has been continued.

U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes signed an order Thursday to continue the jury trial for Levi White, 32, and Zackary King, 27, according to court records.

White and King were arrested in connection with a federal investigation and arraigned on one count each of deprivation of rights under color of law in U.S. District Court on Jan. 24. Their indictment, filed Jan. 11, accuses them of striking Randal Worcester, 27, of Goose Creek, S.C., multiple times while Worcester was on the ground during an arrest Aug. 21, causing bodily injury.

Both men pleaded not guilty, according to court records. Their trial had originally been set for April 3.

A new trial date will be set during a conference at 10 a.m. March 30 in Fort Smith, according to Holmes' order Thursday.

"The court intends for the new date to be a firm one," the order states.

Attorney Russell Wood of the Wood Law Firm in Russellville, who's representing White in this case, filed a motion for continuance March 7. The motion stated Wood needed additional time to investigate and conduct discovery, as well as properly prepare.

As sheriff's deputies, King and White, along with officer Thell Riddle of the Mulberry Police Department, were recorded on video using force while arresting Worcester about 10:40 a.m. Aug. 21 outside the Kountry Xpress convenience store in Mulberry. The video showed the officers repeatedly punching and kneeing Worcester, as well as telling a bystander to get away from the scene.

An officer identified as White in a federal civil rights lawsuit Worcester filed Aug. 29 was also shown slamming Worcester's head to the pavement.

Worcester was arrested in connection with suspicion of second-degree battery, first-degree assault, second-degree assault, resisting arrest, possessing an instrument of crime, criminal trespass, second-degree criminal mischief and first-degree terroristic threatening after the incident, according to the Sheriff's Office's online inmate roster. He was released from jail on $15,000 bail Aug. 22.

White and King were fired effective Sept. 29 with a recommendation for decertification due to "excessive use of force," according to records from the Arkansas Division on Law Enforcement Standards and Training. They had been suspended with pay after Worcester's arrest.

Riddle, who had been put on administrative leave in connection with the Worcester's arrest, was reinstated Feb. 17 after being under investigation, according to Mulberry Police Chief Shannon Gregory.

Attorney Emily White said she was appointed special prosecuting attorney for the Arkansas State Police's independent investigation into the use of force in Worcester's arrest.

Defendant representation

In addition to Russell Wood, Levi White is represented in the case by attorney Marcus Bozeman of the Bozeman Law Firm in Little Rock. Zackary King is represented by attorneys William James Jr. and Christopher Baker, both of the James Law Firm in Little Rock.

Source: U.S. District Court records