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Babbo beats the rap 

A jury rejects claims that a man accused of breaking into his own home was resisting arrest

In the twilight hour of July 15, Jeffrey "Babbo" Milne, owner of SLO's Babbo's Pizza, returned to his San Luis Obispo home following a hike up nearby Bishop's Peak.

Fatigued from the climb, the 52-year-old business owner said he kicked off his shoes, peeled off his shirt, and sank into his favorite recliner. He cracked open a 24-ounce can of Steel Reserve malt liquor and turned on the TV. Two thirds finished with his beer, Milne's relaxation time was abruptly cut short by the sounds of several San Luis Obispo police officers pounding on his door.

The officers were responding to a call dispatchers had received from a neighbor who said her son saw a man kick in the door of Milne's house.

Though officers initially didn't find any signs of forced entry, they surrounded Milne's home.

According to a police report, officers then identified themselves and instructed Milne to follow their commands--to put his hands up, to open the door, to turn around--repeating each order several times before he complied.

According to Milne, who spoke to New Times in the days after his court date, the officers' instructions confused him.

"When I first came to the door I looked out the blinds and there was a gun pointed at my face," he said. "One police officer was yelling to keep my hands up while another was yelling to open the door. I didn't know what to do."

In fear of being shot, Milne said, he stalled, unsure of which orders to follow. He then questioned the officers about what they were doing at his house.

"I asked them what was going on, and they said, 'We'll tell you later,'" he said.

After repeated requests to open the door, Milne finally did. That's where his account differs from the police report. Milne said that three officers walked through his doorway and commanded him to keep his hands raised. The report states that Milne opened the door, but began to step back inside after a brief exchange, at which point an officer stepped inside and took Milne to the ground.

According to Milne, the trio of officers encircled him and all started patting him down simultaneously--and that the frisking turned painfully brutal. In their search, officers reported that they found a knife and a handgun in Milne's pocket, and other firearms in the house.

According to Milne, he was just about to clean his firearms in preparation for an upcoming shooting event at his buddy's uncle's ranch.

"It's just one of those freak things where the cops come in when I have my guns out," Milne said. "Not that that matters, because I have a right to have guns in my house."

In describing the incident to New Times, Milne detailed getting sprayed with pepper spray being prodded, punched, and kneed and being injured while getting handcuffed and lifted from the ground.

"An officer grabbed both my arms, put them behind my back and slammed me face first into the floor," he said.

While being held on the ground, Milne watched through tearing eyes as one officer walked past his family portrait hanging on the wall and pictures of him celebrating his daughter's wedding on the bookcase.

"If they just looked at the pictures they would have known that I lived there," Milne said.

The police report notes that Milne received "minor cuts" on his arms from the incident, and that photos of the injuries were booked into evidence. An officer also reported taking a dozen pictures of the residence, citing empty beer cans and ammunition in plain view throughout the home.

Milne claims there was one additional beer can to the one he was drinking at the time--a leftover from the previous night. The report cites a smell of alcohol and Milne's slurred speech as evidence of intoxication.

Lt. Bill Proll said that though he wasn't present during Milne's arrest, he supports the officers who were there. He added that Milne's actions enhanced the officers' suspicions.

"It was a difficult situation," he said. "The bottom line is we feel our officers acted properly based on the information they had at the time."

"They worked me over and they never told me why," Milne said. "They just told me to shut up and comply."

Milne was ultimately taken to county jail where he spent the night in a cell, barefoot and shirtless. He was charged with resisting arrest.

On Oct. 16, a jury found Milne not guilty of the charge after a six-day trial.

"The police officers made a series of mistakes and instead of dusting Mr. Milne off and saying 'Sorry,' they decided to charge him with resisting arrest and circled the wagons," said Milne's attorney, Lou Koory. "But thankfully the jury was in place to check the police, and that's what they did."

Kelly Manderino, the criminal prosecutor on the case, defended the officers' actions.

"I think the officers did what they were supposed to do, and I respect the verdict of the jury," she said. "I can't comment on anything outside of that."

It may be over for Manderino, but it isn't for Milne, who said the altercation has had an emotional impact on him.

"I'm leery if I see them," he said of police officers. "I get an uneasy feeling if I even see them driving by in a squad car."

Koory declined to comment on the possibility of a civil case.

Despite the event, Milne, whose brother is a retired sheriff, said he doesn't hate all cops.

"There's good officers and bad officers," he said. "I just happened to deal with the bad."

Staff Writer Kai Beech can be reached at kbeech@newtimesslo.com.

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