WILKES-BARRE – At most preliminary hearings, a victim testifies against a defendant who is in custody, shackled and usually wearing a prison uniform.
The scenario was turned around Tuesday when Naeem Ford, 29, imprisoned on a probation violation, testified against his alleged attacker, James Rankin, who has not been jailed despite being unable to post $100,000 bail on charges related to a home invasion in April.
Rankin, 21, of Philadelphia, was paralyzed when he was shot by a Wilkes-Barre police officer investigating an April 9 robbery and assault at Ford's apartment on Kidder Street. The officer fired believing Rankin had reached into his waistband for a weapon during a foot chase at night.
The officer was cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting by the Luzerne County District Attorney's Office.
Unable to walk, the wheelchair-bound Rankin appeared in street clothes for his preliminary hearing in Wilkes-Barre Central Court.
Ford and his girlfriend, Margarita Martinez, 22, testified for more than an hour about being awakened by an intruder, whom they identified as Rankin, and repeatedly stunned by a Taser and assaulted for 90 minutes.
Ford said he underwent surgery to have a 16-inch rod inserted in his leg that was crushed in a car crash about a week before the alleged home invasion. He said Rankin stomped on his surgically repaired leg six or seven times, stunned him with a Taser numerous times and punched him in the face about 20 times.
"He kept stomping on my left leg. It was unbearable pain," Ford testified upon questioning by assistant district attorneys William Finnegan Jr. and Michelle Hardik.
He said the blows bent the rod and he had to undergo a second surgery to repair his leg.
Martinez said Rankin stunned her with a Taser numerous times, causing permanent burn scars on her chest, arms and legs. She testified Rankin threatened to kill her and offered a choice of how she wanted to be killed.
"He said I could be shot in the head or the heart," Martinez testified.
Rankin blamed Ford and Martinez when police arrested his brother, David Hines, on April 8, Ford said. Hines was staying in the same apartment with Ford and Martinez.
District Judge Rick Cronauer determined prosecutors established a case against Rankin, sending charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, robbery, burglary, theft, unlawful use of an incapacitation device and resisting arrest to Luzerne County Court.
Rankin was permitted to continue to stay with his family in Philadelphia.