Leaderboard 728 X 90

Monday, August 3, 2015

Federal authorities arrest Alabama deputy in case of unlawful traffic stop and brutal beating of handyman


Robert Bryant, after beating by Alabama deputies
(from al.com)
An Alabama deputy was arrested today for his role in the 2012 "revenge beatdown" of a Tennessee handyman. The case has ties to a grisly unsolved murder and is the latest in a long line of police misconduct cases that started with the shooting death last August of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. In fact, a number of events have been announced to mark the first anniversary of the Brown shooting, which is August 9.

A federal indictment charges Deputy Justin Watson with five criminal counts, including two for deprivation of rights under color of law (18 U.S. Code 242) related to an unlawful traffic stop of Robert Bryant and the beating that followed. Watson faces one count of lying about the incident under oath and two counts of intimidating witnesses, including aiming an unloaded gun at a fellow deputy and pulling the trigger. (See FBI press release at the end of this post.)

The Bryant beating came to light after the murder of Jason Klonowski, who found lawyers and helped pay for Bryant's legal bills. Klonowski also paid for signs and T-shirts to support Bryant and raise questions about the Madison County Sheriff's Office. Klonowski said at a public event in late September 2013 that he would not stop until at least two officers, Watson and Jake Church, were in prison. Less than one month later, Klonowski was found dead on his property, with three bullet wounds to the back of his head. The murder case remains under investigation.

Bryant's beating hits close to home here at Legal Schnauzer for a number of reasons. For one, it started with a traffic stop, for an alleged improper lane change, which federal authorities now state in the indictment was conducted "without probable cause and without reasonable suspicion."

My wife, Carol, and I were subjected to a similar stop in Shelby County. Officer Mike DeHart pulled us over for allegedly rolling through a stop sign, but after giving me a warning and returning my license and insurance documents (indicating the traffic stop, by law, was over), he unlawfully extended the stop by handing me court papers in a defamation lawsuit brought by Republican political operative/lawyer Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke. DeHart's actions violated a long line of Fourth Amendment case law, most recently spelled out in a U.S. Supreme Court case styled Rodriguez v. United States.

DeHart's actions are particularly egregious because he clearly stopped me to "serve" papers in the Riley/Duke lawsuit, meaning he had no probable cause to make the stop based on a rolling-stop violation that never happened. Also, we now know, thanks to a letter from Birmingham attorney David Gespass, that no summons had been issued in the case at the time of DeHart's bogus stop. That means the court had no authority to hear the case, and DeHart's actions were completely outside judicial boundaries.

The Bryant case also hits home because I, too, wound up being beaten by an Alabama deputy. I wasn't bloodied and beaten with a baton, as Bryant was. But Deputy Chris Blevins knocked me to the concrete floor of my own garage three times and doused me with pepper spray before hauling me to jail for a five-month stay--all from a civil case, based on a preliminary injunction that violates more than 200 years of First Amendment law, apparently without a warrant and without service of a summons in the case.

We also have seen evidence that DeHart and Blevins, like Watson, lied under oath about their actions.

Justin Watson's bogus traffic stop and brutal beating of Robert Bryant is unconscionable. But I would argue that the actions of DeHart and Blevins against me are in the same ballpark. Which is worse, to be bloodied by the side of the road and sent to a hospital, or to be beaten in your own home, sprayed with mace, and sent to jail for five months? We see no reason to arrive at an answer to that question--after all, it's like comparing an airplane crash to a train wreck. Both are horrific.

Here is one major difference between the Bryant beating and my case: We see signs that justice might be done in the Bryant case. And ironically, it largely is being sought for the criminal "deprivation of rights under color of law," a subject we addressed here about six weeks ago.

We see no signs of justice, so far, in my case. Is that because a lawyer (Rob Riley) orchestrated the whole charade and another lawyer (Judge Claud Neilson) served as Riley's personal rubber stamp? Are federal authorities less likely to pursue a case where members of the legal tribe are at the heart of wrongdoing?

My answer to those questions is a resounding yes. That doesn't mean, however, that Carol and I will be denied justice. But it might take longer than it should, and we might have to consider remedies outside a court system that has consistently cheated us for 15 years.


FBI press release on the indictment of Alabama deputy Justin Watson

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

This might be the most sickening of all the police misconduct cases. This was planned, it wasn't a spur of the moment decision an officer had to make under duress. It also likely involved a murder that remains unsolved. Again, sickening.

Anonymous said...

What was the evidence that Dehart and Blevins lied about under oath? I'm assuming you are alleging Blevins occurred during your trial for resisting, but when was Dehart under oath?

Anonymous said...

Jason Klonowski was not just murdered. That was an execution, and the executioner is still out there.

legalschnauzer said...

According to a Rob Riley document, DeHart testified in a hearing on Sept. 30 that he lawfully served us. If the account in the Riley document is accurate, DeHart lied under oath. If David Gespass' account of what he saw in the sealed file is accurate, DeHart really, really lied under oath.

As for Blevins, he stated both in his incident report and at the resisting arrest trial that he had warrants for my arrest. But Blevins never showed any warrants to me, and the asst. DA at resisting-arrest trial could not produce any warrants when ordered to do so by a judge. Again, evidence that Blevins lied under oath.

legalschnauzer said...

The DeHart information is in Footnote 1 of the following document filed by Rob Riley:

http://www.rcfp.org/sites/default/files/docs/20131025_182328_riley_petition.pdf

Is this accurate, @10:55? You seem to be taking issue with the claims made in the Riley document? Are you saying DeHart didn't testify under oath at said hearing?

Anonymous said...

Maybe all is not lost after all. I had read this beat down case and could not understand why those cops had not already been carted off to jail. I feared it was because he was a white middle class guy. It seems to me that class of people, white, working class(like legalschnauzer)gets railroaded all the time with no one caring at all. Nobody should have to live in fear of the police, no matter want color or were you were born. When the guy from India was jumped by the police up in Huntsville for walking down the sidewalk the feds took action within a week so I am glad justice is for us rednecks too. Also my hat is off to the officers of that dept who would not lie or help cover us this case. There are still some good cops who believe in the rule of law.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the insanity will end when a few cops wind up behind bars. I hope DeHart and Blevins wind up sharing a cell with this pr-ck from Madison County. Protect and serve, my ass.

Anonymous said...

The arrest of the Madison County deputy is in the New York Daily News --

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/ala-deputy-indicted-beating-man-traffic-stop-article-1.2313902

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for sharing, @8:58. It should be all over the national and international news. How often are cops indicted for an orchestrated beating and bogus traffic stop like this? Pretty rare, I think. One of the big stories in the Madison Co. case and my case in Shelby Co. is that cops use traffic stops for nefarious reasons. That's how both of these stories got started.

Anonymous said...

That sound you hear are the sphincters of deputy DeHart and deputy Blevins getting tight.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the Department of Justice usually issue a press release on an indictment like this? If so, I would like to read it.

legalschnauzer said...

Yes, they do, @9:07, and I would like to read it, too. Let me see if I can find it, and I will post a link to the bottom of this post.

legalschnauzer said...

Found the FBI press release and now have a link to it at the bottom of this post. Thanks for the alert on that, @9:07.

Anonymous said...

You need to contact the FBI, LS, or people need to do it on your behalf. These SOBs in Shelby County must not be allowed to walk. You might be right about the "Rob Riley Protective Factor," but he needs to go down with them, along with Neilson and anyone else who was involved.

Anonymous said...

The reason I questioned when Dehart was under oath relates to a comment in an earlier blog post you made about your motion to quash service. You said there was never a hearing on that motion and I was wondering when and what he testified to. I don't remember reading that court order before.

Anonymous said...

I'm aware the "blue wall of silence" can keep cops from testifying against their fellow officers, but if I was possibly facing the needle over someone's actions, I'll be singing to any FBI agent I can find.