|X-ray of Carol Shuler's broken arm|
A cover charge can happen when a corrupt law-enforcement agency, like the sheriff's department here in Greene County Missouri, has abused a citizen and needs a way to ward off a civil-rights lawsuit. The idea is to bring false criminal charges against the victim, hoping that will intimidate her into avoiding civil remedies.
A reasonable person might say, "My God, I can't believe cops would be underhanded enough to do that!" But quite a few of them are, and published reports indicate cover charges are not uncommon. From our post on the matter, published on February 11, 2016; Carol's arrest, based on cover charges for assault on a law enforcement officer and trespass, came on January 30, 2017:
An Occupy Wall Street activist named Cecily McMillan was the apparent victim of a "cover charge" in May 2014 in New York City. Aviva Shen also covered the McMillan story for Think Progress:
"Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan has been sentenced to 3 months in jail and five years probation for assaulting a police officer, a charge that sparked outrage and protests earlier this month. McMillan, who said she threw her elbow up behind her instinctively after the officer groped her breast, faced up to seven years in prison for felony assault. The perceived injustice inspired multiple petitions on McMillan’s behalf and close public scrutiny — but could the 25-year-old graduate student’s case help bring attention to others like her?
"Despite medical photographs of McMillan’s bruises, including a hand-shaped mark on her breast, Officer Grantley Bovell said McMillan attacked him unprovoked, and prosecutor Erin Choi said McMillan’s claims were “so utterly ridiculous and unbelievable that she might as well have said that aliens came down that night and assaulted her.” Grainy cell phone footage of the altercation makes it unclear whose version of events is accurate."
McMillan almost certainly was the victim of a cover charge, but she likely was convicted because the officer did suffer an injury when her elbow made contact near his eye -- and she had the misfortune of drawing a clueless jury and a prosecution-friendly judge. In Carol's case, no one has alleged an officer suffered the slightest scratch -- not even in Deputy Debi Wade's probable cause statement, which is a work straight out of Fantasy Island. (More on that in a series of upcoming posts.)
|Missori deputy Debi Wade|
McMillan’s conviction sparked a flurry of media coverage and a protest in Zuccotti Park. But her predicament is unfortunately quite common. Police often charge victims of brutality with anything from assault to disorderly conduct to discredit their claims of police misconduct. While it is nearly impossible to compile exact statistics on this practice, sometimes called “cover” arrests, video recording has helped expose a number of cases where police have wrongfully charged people or fabricated police reports to justify violence.
For instance, another Occupy activist was cleared last year of charges that he “charged the police like a linebacker” after video footage showed cops tackling him as he was trying to get up. In another high profile case, police charged two University of Maryland students with felony assault, claiming they attacked officers on horses after a basketball game. A month later, a video emerged showing the cops beating an unarmed student with batons over a dozen times for no apparent reason.
Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott knows he has problems for what was done to Carol. He's only heightened his problems by causing her to be falsely arrested and imprisoned. Landlord Trent Cowherd and his lawyer, Craig Lowther, likely know they have problems -- especially since Missouri law requires rent to be late by at least one month before eviction proceedings begin, and our rent was behind by five days. That means Cowherd and Lowther had no lawful grounds to seek an eviction when they did (via a rent and possession petition), and Arnott's gang had no grounds to be on the property when they were.
Have cops and their associates ever paid a dear price for bringing a "cover charge"? We don't know, but we intend to make sure those responsible for Carol's cover charge pay a dear price, indeed.