Smith County Judge Kerry Russell sentenced a Tyler man to life in prison on Friday for ramming the head of a Tyler police officer into a brick wall and causing the policeman permanent injury one year ago.
Michael Renard Webb, 37, must serve 50 years before he is eligible for parole, prosecutor Richard Vance said. Webb, who was charged with aggravated assault of a public servant, and manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance in a drug-free zone, received a 40-year sentence for the drug charge, Vance said. That 40-year sentence will be stacked on top of the aggravated assault of a public servant sentence, Vance said.
Russell found during a bench trial in March that the brick wall was used as a deadly weapon.
Tyler Police Officer William Steinmiller stopped Webb in front of Caldwell Elementary School on Front Street and College Avenue in March 2011. He learned that Webb was wanted on multiple felony warrants for drug charges.
Steinmiller testified during the trial that as he tried to take Webb into custody, Webb tried to grab Steinmiller's gun and the two fought. Steinmiller said Webb slammed Steinmiller's head into a brick wall next to a business in which the traffic stop took place.
As the fight between the officer and the suspect took place, Smith County District Attorney Investigator Fabio Martinez came to Steinmiller's aid in the struggle, the officer testified. Steinmiller told defense attorney Tonda Curry that when Martinez helped him, the three of them (Steinmiller, Martinez and Webb) fell to the ground as they struggled.
Steinmiller testified in court in March that he still suffers from pain, and can no longer carry his young children.
In his closing statements, Vance told the judge that Webb said on the police dash video that he "almost got Steinmiller."
"If he (Webb) is found not guilty, he's gotten away with it," Vance said.
The prosecutor said Steinmiller never had any problems with his knee before that injury involving the fight with Webb.
Vance argued that the only reason Webb had used the brick wall was to inflict death or serious bodily injury on Steinmiller.
Defense attorney Greg Waldron said in his closing statements at the trial the defense was not trying to minimize the assault on Steinmiller.
"The issue is whether we had a serious bodily injury and to see if the brick wall was a deadly weapon," Waldron said to Russell.
Waldron argued that Webb's intent was to flee the scene.
"Webb ran to get back past Steinmiller and a wrestling match ensued," Waldron said.
"We had bodily injury, but not serious bodily injury. Officer Steinmiller is back at work full time, riding a motorcycle full time," Waldron said to the judge.