DA respects decision; video played key role in defense
Adams County District Court acquitted an Aurora man last week of second-degree assault charges stemming from an alleged altercation with a CU police officer at a Feb. 3. 2005 CU regents meeting concerning professor Ward Churchill.
Shareef Aleem, 38, allegedly assaulted officer Greg Barthlome at the meeting, which was held at CU’s Health and Sciences Center just one month after Churchill’s paper comparing 9/11 victims to Nazis prompted scrutiny from the national media.
An ardent activist for civil and First Amendment rights, Aleem attended the rally in support of Churchill. Aleem protested that students were not being allowed to speak at the meeting.
“I’ve always been a vocal person about issues in the community,” Aleem said. “My main function is that of an educator, and my message is freedom, justice, and equality.”
It was Aleem’s second trial on the charge, the first ending with a hung jury in March 2006. The jury last week found Aleem not guilty after seven hours of deliberation.
Prosecutors in the most recent trial argued Aleem defied officer Barthlome’s repeated commands to leave the auditorium once the regents’ meeting had concluded. Barthlome said Aleem waved his hands in the officer’s face in a threatening manner and tried to grab his badge.
“It was our position that Mr. Aleem attacked a police officer simply because he was a police officer,” said Jim Colgan, senior deputy District Attorney. “But we always have to respect the jury’s decision.”
The defense argued Aleem and the officer tripped over student backpacks in the auditorium aisles, and presented video footage of the incident to the jury.
A conviction would have carried a potential sixteen-year prison sentence.
“There’s always more to the story than a 15 to 20 second video clip,” said CUPD Commander Brad Wiesley. “But we have to put our faith in the courts to make the right call.”
Aleem remains active in the greater Denver community; he founded Aurora Cop Watch and volunteers at KGNU Radio and Present Tense Films in Boulder.
He has cultivated many supporters among CU students.
“He’s an incredible leader in the community,” said Dave Staub, a junior history and ethnic studies major.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Tim McAvoy at email@example.com.