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Sheriff's Deputies Charged In Beating Of Stolen-Horse Pursuit Suspect

SAN BERNARDINO ( — Felony charges have been filed against three San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies involved in the televised beating of man, who led them on a chase on a stolen horse earlier this year, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

A news helicopter video shot by KNBC showed Francis Pusok, 39, being pummeled after trying to elude deputies on a stolen horse in Apple Valley on April 9.

Deputies Nicholas Downey, Michael Phelps and Charles Foster each faces a count of assault by a public officer.

San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos said Tuesday at a news conference "I believe the officers charged today crossed the line under the color of authority."

"The vast majority of our law enforcement officers do an excellent job of protecting the public," Ramos said. "However, in those rare instances when an officer crosses the line and uses excessive force, the officer must be held accountable."

"When these other officers are running up, what they hear on the belt recording; and I am not going to get into the details. I am going to leave that for court," Ramos said.  "They hear something the other officers are yelling, not knowing the circumstances they can't see when come upon Mr. Pusok."

Downey, Phelps and Foster could spend up to three years behind bars if convicted. The other seven deputies involved will not be charged.

At a separate news conference accompanied by his attorneys and fiancée Tuesday, Pusok had little to say about the charges. "I don't have any comments," Pusok said. "I'm just grateful to be alive and spend my days with my family."

He had reached a $650,000 settlement with San Bernardino County. The 30-year-old has been charged with 14 felony and misdemeanor counts, including vandalism, auto and horse theft, reckless driving and being under the influence of drugs. Pusok is free on bail and could face up to 19 years in prison if convicted.

The sheriff said his department's separate internal investigation into the beating and all of the deputies involved continues. All 10 deputies remain on paid administrative leave.

The three deputies are scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 8.



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