Tony Denunzio, 50 at the time, was pulled over by Officer Aaron Tudor on suspicion of driving under the influence.
After the stop in the Loreto Plaza parking lot, Denunzio got out of his truck, which prompted a physical response by Tudor, who hit, kicked and repeatedly Tasered Denunzio. Some of the confrontation was captured by a dashboard video camera in Tudor’s patrol car.
The department has since installed them in every patrol car, but it was happenstance that Tudor was driving the one vehicle with a camera that night.
Opening statements and testimony in the case started Friday, with Tudor and a phlebotomist — who draws blood samples — on the stand, according to Deputy District Attorney Mai Trieu.
Denunzio, represented by Darryl Genis, has pleaded not guilty to charges of driving under the influence, driving with a blood-alcohol level above 0.08, driving on a suspended license, and allegations related to two prior convictions for alcohol-related driving offenses.
Tudor and police officials say Denunzio was resisting arrest, while Denunzio and a number of eyewitnesses say he was not resisting and have alleged that Tudor used excessive force.
An investigation by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office did not find sufficient admissible evidence to file either resisting-arrest charges against Denunzio or excessive-force charges against Tudor.
An internal investigation was initiated against Tudor, although Police Chief Cam Sanchez has said his officer did nothing wrong.
The case was transferred to Santa Maria, and Judge Edward Bullard ruled last January that the police had probable cause to pull over and arrest Denunzio.
Police have said that Denunzio was stopped because he was missing a front license plate and changed lanes without signaling.
The trial continues this week in the Santa Maria branch of Santa Barbara County Superior Court.