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American pleads not guilty in Zhao Yan case
Updated: 2004-08-14 15:40

US Homeland Security Customs Inspector Robert Rhodes entered a not-guilty plea Friday to federal charges of violating the civil rights of Chinese businesswoman Zhao Yan.

Speaking to reporters after he appeared at federal court in Buffalo, Rhodes claimed he did his job the way he had been trained and used the proper level of force.

Zhao said Rhodes grabbed her, kneed her in the head and slammed her head into the ground in the mistaken belief that she was involved in a drug case.

Rhodes was indicted by a federal grand jury for beating up Zhao Wednesday. According to the indictment, Rhodes "while acting undercolor of law, did strike and hit Yan Zhao with his knee and did forcibly drive her head into contact with the pavement, resulting in bodily injury to Yan Zhao, and thereby did will fully deprive her of the right secured and protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States to be free from the use of unreasonable force by one acting under color of law."

Rhodes said she kicked and scratched him and his reaction was appropriate.

Assistant US Attorney Martin Littlefield said the prosecutors were ready to present evidence and "could start trial Monday."

He denied charges by Rhodes' attorney Steve Cohen that there was political pressure to prosecute Rhodes quickly and firmly.

Rhodes' attorney has until October 1 to conduct any fact finding and report back to Federal Court.

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