(CN) - A police officer who brutally beat a man without cause, then filed a false police report accusing the man of attacking him, deserves longer than 20 months in prison, the 8th Circuit ruled.
Erin Evans and her boyfriend Octavius Bonds had been coming home from a movie theater in Des Moines, Iowa, one night in 2008 when they were stopped by police for failing to immediately pull over for an emergency vehicle.
Officer Mersed Dautovic was extremely angry before he even approached the vehicle, shouting at Evans, and yanking open the car door to ask if she was stupid.
Witnesses testified that Bonds never made any threatening or aggressive movements, and repeatedly begged Dautovic and his partner, Officer John Mailander, to stop as they launched into a savage beating.
Bonds suffered a broken forearm and required seven staples for a head injury. His left hand was broken so badly that two bones stuck through the skin, and it has never recovered full functionality. He was also badly bruised all over his body.
Dautovic filed a false police report after the incident, claiming that Bonds attempted to fight him.
The couple was charged with interfering with a police officer, and Bonds was additionally charged with assaulting an officer. They were later acquitted on all charges despite Dautovic's false testimony against them.
After a four-day trial in Des Moines, a jury found Dautovic guilty of using excessive force against Bonds and obstructing justice.
Though the sentencing guidelines called for a range of 135 to 168 months, the trial judge sentenced Dautovic to only 20 months in prison. The judge specifically declined to apply the six-level color-of-law sentencing enhancement, and "weighed heavily the need to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparity among defendants with similar records or lack thereof who have been convicted of similar conduct."
In remanding the sentence Thursday, a three-judge panel with the 8th Circuit found it a "substantively unreasonable" punishment for Dautovic's "egregious" conduct.
"The District Court's justification for the variance fails to support the degree of the variance in this case," Judge Roger Wollman wrote for the court in St. Louis, Mo. "To the extent the district court tried to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities by basing Dautovic's sentence on the average sentence imposed for civil rights violations, we are not convinced that the U.S. Sentencing Commission surveyed defendants whose records and offense conduct were similar to Dautovic's."
Wollman emphasized that Dautovic beat an innocent man, causing serious and permanent bodily injury, then wrote a false police report under color of law that led to criminal charges against Bonds and Evans, and perjured himself at their trial.
"When the totality of the circumstances is considered, a variance from the guidelines range of 135 to 168 months' imprisonment to a 20-month sentence is unreasonably lenient," the 14-page opinion states.