News in Brief
Alabama: The ruthless jailing of poor people who can’t pay minor fines has not gone unnoticed. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed on Aug. 9, 2018, “a class-action suit representing six named clients and others against Arkansas state District Judge Mark Derrick, accusing him of violating citizens’ rights by locking them up in White County because of their inability to pay court-imposed costs and fees,” according to reason.com. “Derrick oversees eight low-level courts in different towns in White County (population: 79,000) and two in nearby Prairie County. These district courts handle non-jury cases like traffic and contempt proceedings.” The lawsuit says “zero tolerance” for non-payment has “created an illegal, modern-day debtors’ prison in White County.” Derrick “routinely levies substantial fines, fees and costs against persons convicted of even the most minor infractions, and requires them to pay monthly amounts of at least $100, and sometimes several hundred dollars, towards court-imposed debt,” the complaint says. “If they fail to pay this amount in full, he subjects them to arrest, driver’s license suspension, and incarceration, as well as an additional $450 to $670 in fines and costs. He imposes these punishments without conducting any inquiry – let alone an adequate one – into the person’s ability to pay or the reasons for non-payment.” Hard-working individuals often lose their jobs and face financial crisis once they are incarcerated. Some try to satisfy their debt with community service but face obstacles, such as a lack of community service options. “Judge Derrick routinely sentences individuals convicted of failure to pay to twice the jail time of individuals convicted of the most serious State misdemeanors,” the complaint says, and license suspensions violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
Arkansas: Police officer Michael Moore was fired in August after a racist Facebook video emerged. Demarcus Bunch and his cousin were attempting to film a music video when they were stalked and harassed by Moore for hours, reports thefreethoughtproject.com. As the filming was winding down, Bunch asked Moore why he was being followed and harassed. As an ice-breaker, he told Moore that his uncle also is a police officer. Moore responded: “You know why? Because you don’t belong in my city.” When Bunch protested that he was local, Moore disagreed, saying he’d never seen Bunch before, and “I know almost everybody here … I know who my people are, right, who belongs here and who doesn’t? We’ve got gang wars going on, we’ve got all kinds of stuff. I come from the big city where this stuff is small, okay? So, that’s cool. Do your thing.” Bunch noted that he was an England, Arkansas, high graduate. “Well good for you, my name is Mike Moore,” Moore said. “I’m not from here. Step away from my car, I’m about to get my dog out.” Shortly afterward, the young men showed the video to the police and filed a complaint. Nothing happened until the video went viral online. Moore was fired and it was discovered that he was terminated from his previous sheriff’s office employer. In that job, however, police said Moore was let go because he was antisocial, not because he was racist.
California: Hui Jie Jin was walking home from grocery shopping in Dublin, California, when she was “violently” thrown to the ground by Deputy Phillip Corvello after failing to heed his commands, then handcuffed to an ambulance while unconscious. But the 76-year-old woman accused of jaywalking said she is legally deaf and could not hear the officer. A lawsuit she filed in August in the Northern District of California said she suffered “a permanent brain injury, along with contusions and abrasions, as a result of what her attorneys called an unlawful arrest,” according to thefreethoughtproject.com. Sheriff’s officials are named in the suit, as is the city of Dublin. While jaywalking is not a reason for arrest, failing to obey a “lawful order” is. The victim, however, “pointed to her ear with one hand and waved her hand back and forth with the other to signal that she was deaf.” She urged Corvello not to hurt her, but he reportedly did not listen, the suit says. “Mrs. Jin was terrified, but at no point did she resist arrest or attempt to flee, nor could she due to her age and disabilities,” the complaint states. She prayed and bowed before Corvello “in order to beg … for mercy and not to hurt her.” The suit alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, negligence, and deprivation of civil rights. No charges were filed against her, but she was cited for jaywalking and resisting arrest, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
California: Los Angeles will pay the family of a mentally ill homeless man killed by police outside his tent on skid row $1.95 million. The settlement was approved Aug. 21, 2018, by the Los Angeles City Council. When the killing happened in March 2015, it was captured on a cellphone video, and went viral. It showed Charly “Africa” Keunang, who was unarmed, thrown to the ground, where he was tased, hit by batons and shot. Three years later, a federal jury found that two of the officers at the scene used excessive force. They were Sgt. Chand Syed and Officer Francisco Martinez; third officer Daniel Torres was cleared of wrongdoing. The council vote was 12-2, with one council member backing the civilian Police Commission that found the shooting justified. According to United Press International, “Police Chief Charlie Beck also said the shooting was justified because one officer accused Keunang of grabbing his gun during the physical confrontation, but Keunang’s DNA was not found on the weapon.”
Florida: A former FBI task force officer and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputy has pleaded guilty to making false statements in official FBI reports, according to a news release from the Department of Justice’s U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida. Lorenzo Gatti, 52, of Delray Beach discussed with authorities a car accident he was involved in on July 27, 2013. He erroneously led them to believe he was on official business at the time. “Specifically, he claimed that the accident occurred after he had conducted a 24-mile surveillance on a target of a federal investigation,” the news release said.
Georgia: Robert Hawes, a former deputy with the Clayton County sheriff’s department, has seen nothing but trouble since announcing Aug. 10 that he wants to run for sheriff against an incumbent accused of using his office to settle scores. His rival, Sheriff Victor Hill, had Hawes’ home raided and his wife arrested, according to thefreethoughtproject.com. It began when Hill sent out disparaging emails, saying Hawes’ son stole his dad’s department-issued firearms in 2014. The candidate cried foul. His wife, Gerrian Hawes, responded by emailing the sheriff positive messages, including “Where there is love, FEAR can NOT exist.” That’s when Hill had deputies arrest her for harassing emails; she was released on $1,500 bond. “Rodney Williams, a former Clayton Sheriff’s Office chaplain, experienced a similar fate to Gerrian after he emailed the sheriff, noting his ‘evil agenda,’” thefreethoughtproject.com reported. Williams said he saw Gerrian’s arrest coming: “You give him a little bit of bait, the snake will stick his head out because he does not have any self-control. That’s just what he does.”
Hawaii: Former Maui police officer Chase Keliipaakaua faces four months in jail, four months of home confinement and three years of probation as his sentence for conspiracy to commit witness tampering, according to the Associated Press. Keliipaakaua and fellow officer Anthony Maldonado attempted to bribe a witness into dropping a theft complaint against Maldonado. Maldonado allegedly stole $1,800 from a driver’s waist pack during a traffic stop, and the victim reported the theft to police. “Maldonado offered the victim about $2,000 through Damien Kaina Jr. in exchange for the victim to withdraw his complaint against Maldonado,” the AP reported, citing court documents. “Kaina’s cousin, former police Sgt. Walter Ahuna, picked up Kaina from the victim’s home and drove him to meet Maldonado.” The victim reported the attempted bribery the next day. The officers no longer work for the police department.
Louisiana: A lawsuit filed in August in federal court describes an attack by a sheriff’s deputy on a 10th-grader, who has severe autism. The boy, identified as “J.H.” in the suit, “was tasered and left lying motionless in a pool of his own urine” for about 13 minutes, according to thefreethoughtproject.com. The incident took place Aug. 31, 2017, at Northwood High School in Shreveport. J.H., who is non-verbal, walked from his class and into the hallway after being asked to stop rubbing his stomach against a wall. He then drank from a water fountain. He placed his fingers in his ears because he was stressed, according to the lawsuit. He then walked in and out of the classroom until he was stopped by administrators, and a minor tussle ensued. “Staff members, including a deputy then formed a semi-circle around J.H. which escalated the situation even further,” according to freethoughtreport.org. When J.H. tried to break free, a school resource officer identified in the lawsuit as “Deputy Nunnery,” fired his Taser, hitting the boy several times. J.H. was left on the floor in his urine until his mother arrived. “In this period in which he lay on the floor, the Sheriff’s deputy did not check his condition, his vitals, did not determine whether J.H. was still breathing, and made no motion to otherwise determine that J.H. was safe,” the lawsuit alleges. The suit also claims school patrol officers have a lack of training on how to handle children with special needs. According to the Shreveport Times, “the boy’s mother is seeking a jury trial and an unspecified sum in damages, saying that a judgment ‘regardless of the amount, would deter the defendant from discriminating against individuals with autism in the future.’” Rosie Philips filed her suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana against “Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator, alleging that her son’s civil rights were violated under federal disability laws.”
Maryland: A video that shows a Baltimore, Maryland, police officer repeatedly punching a civilian has led to the officer’s arrest and resignation. Arthur Williams has been charged with first and second-degree assault, as well as misconduct of an officer, according to abcnews.go.com. The victim, Dashawn McGrier, suffered injuries to his nose, ribs and eye socket, plus a fractured jaw.
Massachusetts: Investigators uncovered financial irregularities with the Massachusetts State Police dating to 2014, and now it’s become a federal fraud investigation, according to Boston’s WCVB and The Boston Globe. Four troopers have been arrested, a fifth has pleaded guilty and at least 10 more are expected to face indictments, reported MassLive.com. Improprieties through the years have ranged from unauthorized acceptance of cash for escorting funeral processions to overtime discrepancies and sick leave abuse. In 2016, for example, “an inspection of Troop A in Andover found the troop’s commander had approved an unwritten policy allowing troopers to alter the start times of extra paid details to make them more convenient with their regular work schedules,” The Globe reported. Former Lieutenant David Wilson has been charged with embezzlement. Colonel Kerry Gilpin said: “We owe the public to be transparent and do whatever we can do to show people we are serious about earning back the public trust.”
Montana: A fast-food restaurant customer who allegedly filled his water cup with soda ended up being tasered by police. According to KCTV News 5, Daniel Stine got into an argument when asked by an employee to pay for the beverage. When he left the restaurant, the worker followed him into the parking area and Stine reportedly tried to kick him. Police later found Stine in the restroom of another eatery. “Rather than comply with their instructions, he approached [officers] in what appeared to be an aggressive manner,” Missoula Public Information Officer Travis Welsh told KGVO. “The officers attempted to take control of him physically and that’s when he began to resist and fight with the officers and had to be tased to comply with the officer’s instructions.” Stine faces charges of robbery, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, criminal trespass to property, and obstructing a peace officer, KCTV reports. He was taken to the Missoula County Jail.
New Jersey: Sergeant Jody Collins of the Monroe Township Police Department has been arrested for leaking information to criminals and for having sex with a wanted woman, NJ.com reports August 21, 2018. The arrest and charges of misconduct and computer crimes follow a five-month investigation at the department. “He is accused of engaging in sex acts with a woman in his Monroe Township patrol vehicle instead of arresting her for outstanding warrants, according to the charges,” The Courier Post reports. “Collins allegedly paid drug debts to a known drug dealer while in the presence of the woman with outstanding warrants, the charges indicate.” In addition, he is accused of passing on details of “police activity plans so civilians could avoid apprehension,” according to the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office. The 41-year-old sergeant, who earned $107,000 annually, is on unpaid leave. Police Chief John McKeown urged residents not to judge the department by the charges against Collins and praised the department’s 80 sworn and civilian employees.
New Mexico: Body cams are not the silver bullet that proponents envision. Many times, the cameras have failed to record critical moments between police and the public, according to techdirt.com. They have malfunctioned or were inadvertently turned off. Even lost footage could not be recovered. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, five police officers responded to a call that ended in the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Mary Hawkes, who was suspected of stealing a truck. Yet, when her family’s attorney, Laura Ives, requested footage from the body cams of the police at the scene, none of the footage could be used to discern the facts surrounding the incident. Each camera malfunctioned in one way or another. The image was too pixelated, the SD card failed to record the image, or the power cable came unplugged. The end result was that there was no footage remaining to hand over to Ives. The article suggested that all of the police in this incident independently recognized a “developing situation” that could have been damaging to the force. In response, they acted independently to ensure nothing of value from those body cams was saved for anyone outside the force. It stated that this is how police work; officers defend questionable decisions by saying they had to react to an immediate threat, yet they have enough time to think about self-preservation and ensure that only the official narrative survives the shooting. In this case, a team of special prosecutors cleared the officer who fired the fatal shots.
New York: The New York Police Department has banned video recording inside its precinct stations. The ban-the-video rule followed an August 2018 tirade by a belligerent, foul-mouthed man who berated a sergeant and threatened to sexually assault officers at Harlem’s 28th Precinct stationhouse, which was recorded and posted on Instagram. If you turn up with a camera anyway, you’ll be asked to stop recording. Then you’ll be asked to leave. If you don’t take the hint then, you’ll be arrested on criminal trespass charges. That means New Yorkers who want to video-record officers will need to stick to public places, such as parks and playgrounds.
North Carolina: First Sergeant Mark Perrigo, 50, was recently arrested on nine courts of exploitation of a minor and fired from his job at the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office where he was a school resource officer, reports WITN.com. A complaint by Google to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on June 5, 2018, led to a search warrant by authorities and a find of child pornography on a personal device during a search of his home. The State Bureau of Investigation says it was a photo of an “8 to 12-year-old girl with her private parts exposed.” In addition, the bureau seized a couple of cellphones. Perrigo had been a school resource officer for 10 years, recently at White Oak High School. He was freed from jail on a $30,000 secured bond.
Texas: Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who said she entered an apartment she thought was hers before fatally shooting her unarmed neighbor September 6, 2018, was arrested and charged with manslaughter, the Texas Rangers said. The off-duty officer fired at Botham Shem Jean, then called 911. The 26-year-old man, a risk assurance associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers, died at a hospital. Dallas Police Chief Ulysha Renee Hall told CNN that “A female Dallas police officer returned to what she believed to be her apartment after her shift ended—she was still in uniform when she encountered Mr. Jean inside the apartment.” The two apparently did not know each other. And the family is searching for answers, said Lee Merritt, a Dallas civil rights attorney who represents Jean’s family. “I have to believe based on experience that her decision to use deadly force in the way that she did was influenced by the fact that she was standing in front of a black male and that our society has allowed law enforcement to use deadly force in unnecessary situations against black men with impunity,” Merritt told the Washington Post. Guyger, who is 30 and white, was released from jail on $300,000 bond.
Virginia: Yes, Virginia, there is a law that could put you behind bars for letting your grass clippings litter roadways. It’s detailed in VA Code 18.2-324, under “throwing or depositing certain substances upon highway; removal of such substances.” According to WNYT.com: “Violators could be charged with a class one misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine.” When lawn clippings become thick or wet, pedestrians or bicyclists could fall while traveling through them. In Richmond, that’s particularly worrisome because of the more than 20 inches of rainfall this summer, twice the normal amount. While the law means more business for landscapers, they must ensure the clippings are out of sight once lawns are cut. But there’s no accounting for random acts by Mother Nature.
Washington: A Seattle police sergeant accused of raping and torturing his daughters, known in court papers as A.B. and C.A., for more than a decade was sentenced in August 2018 to 23 years in prison, according to news reports. A jury found Daniel Amador, 46, “guilty of first-degree child molestation, second-degree child rape, third-degree child rape and first-degree incest,” the thefreethoughtproject.com reported. The oldest daughter, A.B., was raped about five times a week, and her sister was molested, court documents reveal. A.B. testified she was raped starting at age 9, and that her father would place a dresser in front of his bedroom door to keep her confined. The abuse continued into her college years. C.A. would be “pinned” down by Amador as punishment. He instilled fear in the children and told the family “they could lose everything they had if he was fired from being a cop,” the website reported. The oldest daughter brought her story to a police department neighboring Seattle in March 2016 after learning that her father’s new wife was expecting a baby girl and “realized she had to say something to save her” soon-to-be half-sister, the website reported. Amador posted $750,000 bail in April 2016 after the Lake Forest Park Police Department arrested him, yet still allowed supervised visitation with his new child.