SAN JOSE -- A federal jury Tuesday awarded a tech salesman $90,000 in an excessive force case that his lawyer claims reflects a shift in public opinion about police.

"Juries are not giving San Jose police the benefit of the doubt anymore," said lawyer Anthony Boskovich, who represented the salesman, Aleksandr Binkovich.

The officer in this case, Bruce Barthelemy, has been in at least two officer-involved shootings in the past few years, once saving a colleague who came under fire and another time killing a driver who was coming at him and other officers.

Both shootings were ruled lawful by the District Attorney's Office, one as recently as last week, and Barthelemy is considered a hero to fellow officers. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

But City Attorney Rick Doyle said, "The jury just got it wrong. We strongly disagree with this verdict." He acknowledged that juries are less reluctant these days to side with plaintiffs against cops and speculated that the political tension over police cutbacks, pensions and resignations might be a factor.

The jury of five women and four men in the Binkovich case deliberated for a day before returning a verdict after a four-day trial. They found two other officers not liable.

The encounter between Barthelemy and the salesman occurred at the Hilton Hotel in downtown San Jose about 1 a.m. in August 2009, just as a debate about local police tactics and use of force was gathering steam.


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Binkovich and his friends had rented a room to play poker. After a noise complaint, the hotel asked them to leave, saying they violated the establishment's "no-party" policy. The hotel staff called police, describing the incident as "physical," then called back and said it was not physical after all.

According to Binkovich, Barthelemy confronted him as he was coming out of the elevator into the lobby. A former Russian Jew accustomed to the totalitarian Soviet regime, Binkovich said he immediately put up his hands. But Barthelemy grabbed his shoulder without saying anything, and when Binkovich tried to shake off his hand and demanded the officer not touch him, Barthelemy put him in a wrist lock. With the help of another cop, they kicked his legs out from under him. Binkovich fell down face-forward, injuring his nose.

In the course of the fall, Binkovich lost his father's wedding ring, which he had worn on a neck chain ever since his death in 2007. The lawyer, Boskovich, said a juror told him after the verdict that the jury believed the officer had provoked the confrontation by failing to warn Binkovich.

Boskovich cited several recent cases in which juries had ruled against police, including a $1 million verdict in July against a former San Jose police officer who used "unreasonable" force by repeatedly jolting with a Taser a naked, unarmed truck driver who was high on PCP.

Contact Tracey Kaplan at 408-278-3482. Follow her at Twitter.com/tkaplanreport.