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California man beaten by deputies on video faces charges

VICTORVILLE, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California man chased by sheriff’s deputies while riding a horse and whose subsequent beating by them resulted in a $650,000 settlement was charged Thursday with more than a dozen crimes, including resisting arrest and animal cruelty.

Francis Pusok, 30, was charged with 11 felonies and three misdemeanors. They include vandalism, auto and horse theft, reckless driving and being under the influence of drugs.

He is free on bail and could face up to 19 years in prison if convicted.

His girlfriend, Jolene Bindner, 31, was charged with three felony counts of receiving stolen property.

Their lawyers, Sharon Brunner and James Terrell, said they were disappointed but not surprised by the charges. They said no charges had been filed against eight San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies, a sergeant and detective who have been on paid leave while the department investigates.

“In our opinion, they continue to be rewarded and protected,” the lawyers said in a statement, while “significant” effort went into charging their clients.

“This can only be seen as retaliatory, unjust, unfair and inequitable,” the statement said.

During a 2 1/2-hour chase April 9, Pusok fled by car and then on a stolen horse in the desert while deputies chased him on foot. They were trying to serve a search warrant in an identity-theft investigation.

Pusok wasn’t wanted in the ID theft case, but he had been sought earlier in the day in connection with a burglary and the theft of a motorcycle. The charges include allegations that he stole three motorcycles.

Pusok’s eventual arrest was recorded by a KNBC-TV news crew in a helicopter. The video showed Pusok, dressed in bright red clothing, falling from the horse. A deputy ran up and fired a Taser that officials said was ineffective.

Pusok was face down with his legs outstretched and hands behind his back as a deputy threw punches and kicks. One deputy kicked him in the crotch. Other deputies arrived moments later.

The video led to a federal civil rights investigation and Sheriff John McMahon said the video “disturbed and troubled” him and appeared to show an excessive use of force.

Last month, San Bernardino County supervisors approved paying $650,000 to Pusok to avoid a lawsuit over the beating.

According to San Bernardino County Superior Court records, Pusok has a number of vehicle code violations in his history. He also pleaded no contest to several criminal charges in a prior criminal case, including resisting arrest, attempted robbery, animal cruelty, and fighting or offensive words.

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