Fresno Police Sergeant and Ex-officers plead innocent

FRESNO, Calif.

Prosecutors say Christopher Coleman, Paul Van Dalen, Sean Plymale and Michael Manfredi used excessive force when they took a domestic violence suspect into custody.

The men were released on their own recognizance after entering their pleas of not guilty. Their attorneys say after reviewing the indictments, they are even more confident the group will not be convicted of these crimes.

The defendant's attorneys said the former Fresno Police Officers and current Fresno Police Sergeant were nervous Tuesday as they entered pleas in federal court. Cameras are not allowed inside the courthouse.

Chris Coleman's Attorney, Paul Goyette said, "It is unsettling, discouraging, disturbing is probably the right word that officers would get prosecuted for simply doing their job. And doing their job well."

Defense Attorneys Paul Goyette and Marshall Hodgkins believe prosecutors don't fully understand what happened when officers approached domestic violence suspect, Rolondo Celdon in Southeast Fresno five years ago.

Sean Plymale's Attorney, Marshall Hodgkins said, "The FBI and the U.S. Attorney don't regularly go on beats the way that officers involved in a case like this do. They don't handle domestic phone calls where individuals come back to a house and break in a window and try to rough up their girlfriend and then try to get away."

The federal indictment claims Officer Christopher Coleman fired numerous non-lethal rounds at Celdon and drove a speeding vehicle at him without justification. Officer Paul Van Dalen is accused of repeatedly kicking and stepping on the victim. Officers Sean Plymale and Michael Manfredi are accused of covering up the excessive force.

"They're confident in their actions as police officers everything they did back in October of 2005 was within their training as police officers and was within the legal parameters," said Goyette. "It's a perfectly justifiable use of force under the circumstances."

ABC30 Legal Analyst Tony Capozzi says it's rare for a grand jury to bring such serious charges against law enforcement personnel. "This is very uncommon to see an indictment like this normally it's taken care of administratively from what I understand. Three of the officers were fired. One is still with the department, he'd been fired but petitioned to get his job back and he did."

Manfredi is the only officer still with the Fresno Police Department. Plymale now works for Madera Police.

The group, although released did have to get processed with the U.S. Marshalls office. The judge also told them, if convicted they each face 10 to 20 years in prison.

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