The ancient battle movie "Troy" has nothing on the legal battle of a woman who is suing a Utah County sheriff's deputy over a 2004 altercation in a Provo movie theater.
This week a federal jury is expected to hear testimony on two dramatically different versions of the confrontation between a couple and deputy Skip Curtis.
On Thursday, witness Betty Jo Searle took the witness stand to testify that she and a date went to see "Troy" on May 23, 2004. They were seated about two to three seats away from Vanessa Arnold and Lorenzo Castillo.
As the movie's closing credits were rolling, Searle said she saw a man stand up and ask Castillo to "come here."
The man, who she later found out was Curtis, began yelling at the couple and accused them of talking throughout the movie. He demanded that Arnold and Castillo pay for his movie ticket.
Searle said she didn't hear the couple talking through the movie but did hear others talking. When Curtis kept shouting, Searle said she and her date stepped in to see if they could help, but Curtis flashed his badge and told them to "walk the other way," she said.
She then saw Curtis grab Castillo by the arm and drag him to the aisle at the top of the theater's stairs. Arnold stepped in and begged Curtis to stop, saying, "No, no, please no," while placing her hands on his chest. That is when Searle says she saw Curtis grab Arnold and push her off balance, causing her to fall head-first down the stairs, where she landed on the side of her head.
Arnold claims she suffered permanent damage to one of her eyes, as well as chronic pain, due to the injury.
"I said, 'We have to help. This has gone too far,"' Searle said, and she helped Arnold up while Curtis hauled Castillo away. "She was crying, she was frantic."
According to court documents, Castillo and Arnold claim they were chatting during movie previews. Before the movie started, Curtis, who was off-duty, told them to "shut up" three times and called Arnold a "b-----." The couple also claims Curtis made a racial slur about Arnold's Hispanic background.
The couple maintain they were generally silent through the film. After the movie, Castillo approached Curtis and asked him to apologize, the documents said. Curtis, who was with his wife at the time, replied: Do "you want to play?" Curtis then said he was a police officer and that Castillo was under arrest.
Arnold claims that, while pleading with him to stop, Curtis threw her down the stairs. Curtis called dispatch and told Castillo he had an outstanding warrant related to a car accident. Curtis later released him.
According to Curtis' account, it was Castillo who provoked the incident. After listening to the couple talk through the previews and a few minutes into the film, Curtis said he turned and politely asked the pair to stop talking. When they continued to talk, Curtis stood up and asked them again to stop, unless they would like to buy his and his wife's movie tickets.
Curtis contends the couple kept talking through the movie, including taking a cell phone call. During the final credits, Curtis says Castillo approached him and demanded an apology. "Castillo clenched his fists, and Mr. Curtis understood him to threaten a fight."
At that point, Curtis showed Castillo his badge. Arnold then stepped in and grabbed his arm, his hand and his wrist, according to the documents. Curtis claims the woman attacked him and also claims she rested her hand atop his concealed gun. Curtis claims he "bumped" into Arnold while escorting Castillo, which may have caused her to fall down the stairs.
Arnold is suing Curtis as an individual, and not the sheriff's office. She claims to have more than $50,000 in medical bills and has suffered about $40,000 in lost wages. Castillo, who also filed suit, has since settled with Curtis for an undisclosed amount.The trial is expected to wrap up Friday.