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New trial granted for trooper in smokeshop raid

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A state trooper who a jury said used excessive force during a 2003 state police raid on a Narragansett Indian tribal smokeshop has been granted a new trial.

A jury in 2005 found that trooper Kenneth Jones used excessive force when he broke the ankle of tribal member Adam Jennings during the raid on the shop, which was selling cigarettes without collecting the required state taxes. Jennings was initially awarded $301,000.

But U.S. District Judge Ernest Torres May 27 wrote that state police testimony proved more credible than the testimony of Jennings and other defense witnesses. He cast doubt on whether a shop worker and a customer who testified during a five-day trial could have seen Jennings' struggle with state troopers. He also questioned Jennings' recollections.

Torres had earlier overturned the jury award, but the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated it and sent the case back to Torres to hear motions on a new trial.

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Jennings' family and his defense attorney at the original trial said they were troubled by the decision.

Jennings was one of seven tribal members who faced misdemeanor criminal charges after the raid.

He was acquitted of all charges in May after a trial in Providence Superior Court, but three other tribal members, including Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas, were convicted of either simple assault or disorderly conduct. The three are seeking a new trial.

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