A federal civil-rights lawsuit soon will be filed against the Missouri cops, landlord/lawyers, and others responsible for the unlawful eviction that ended with my wife, Carol, being beaten so severely that she suffered a comminuted fracture of her left arm.
We recently reported that such excessive-force cases can lead to both civil and criminal liability. Members of the Greene County Sheriff's Office (GCSO) who were involved in brutalizing Carol -- and pointing one or more assault weapons at my head -- likely know they are at risk for landing in prison. That probably explains the stonewalling on discovery in the pending "assault of a law enforcement officer" case, which was brought as a "cover charge" to impede Carol's efforts to seek civil justice.
If we are fortunate enough to receive a federal judge with integrity, the civil damages in our case could be substantial -- especially for "Mr. Blue Shirt," the cop who played the most direct role in breaking Carol's arm. But that might be the least of the worries facing cops who broke Carol's arm. Online research shows the threat of prison time is very real for cops who engage in "deprivation of rights under color of law," per 18 U.S.C. 242. This language from Sec. 242 should make a few sphincters tight around the GCSO:
. . . and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years,
Missouri cops could be looking at up to 10 years in federal prison? Yes, indeed. And we've found a number of recent cases from around the country where cops wound up in the slammer for roughing up citizens and depriving them of their right to be free from the use of excessive force.
The most recent case comes from early December 2017 in Atlanta, GA, and involved an off-duty police officer who mistakenly thought a man was stealing a tomato at a Wal-Mart and used a baton to beat the man and break his leg. (See video above.) From a report at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
A now-retired Atlanta police officer was found guilty Friday in a case in which he beat a man accused of stealing a tomato at Walmart, Channel 2 Action News reported.
While off duty in October 2014, Trevor King, 49, severely beat Tyrone Carnegay after accusing him of stealing a tomato, for which Carnegay said he had a receipt in his pocket.
King was in uniform at the store on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard downtown when he stopped Carnegay, grabbed his shirt and started to strike him with his baton, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a December 2016 statement, when King was indicted on charges of excessive force.
King’s retirement took effect in January and a trial began in July.
The case caught the attention of the FBI after a mistrial that resulted from inconsistencies in the police report, Channel 2 reported.
King testified over the summer that Carnegay reached for King’s gun belt, but store surveillance footage failed to show any such action, the news station reported.
Charges against King included falsifying a police report and use of unreasonable force.
False police reports? Gee, that sounds familiar. Carol's case is littered with them. And prosecutors in her criminal case have been stonewalling on discovery for more than 10 months -- probably with good reason. What about other recent cases around the country where cops have been found guilty in federal excessive-force cases? Here they are:
Charleston, SC, December 2017
Officer Michael Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison in the shooting death of Walter Scott. Slager pleaded guilty in May to criminal civil-right violations. Aggravating factors apparently led to a sentence beyond the normal 10-year limit. From a report at CNN:
At the time of the shooting, Scott was only the latest black man to be killed in a series of controversial officer-involved shootings that prompted "Black Lives Matter" protests and vigils.
Federal prosecutors sought a life sentence, arguing Slater, then a North Charleston police officer, had committed second-degree murder and also should be punished for obstructing justice by providing the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division with false statements.
Slager, 36, shot Scott five times in the back "for running away, simply for having a broken taillight," Jared Fishman of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division told the court in his closing statement this week. It's "time to call it what it was -- a murder," Fishman said, specifying second-degree murder.
As for aggravating circumstances, the statute gets serious. If a court finds cops tried to kill a suspect, punishment can grow exponentially. From the statute:
. . . and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.
Boynton Beach, FL, November 2017
Officer Mike Brown was found guilty of using excessive force in the beating of an unarmed man who was a passenger in a car that led police on a high-speed chase. The beating was caught on Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office helicopter footage, and the case included charges of falsifying records. From a report at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel:
Brown faces up to 15 years in prison. The judge let the widower go home after the conviction to make arrangements for his 8-year-old son, who is undergoing psychiatric treatment after Brown’s wife died in October 2016.
Brown’s attorney, Bruce Reinhart, said the father of three also cares for his 72-year-old mother. His eldest son, who serves in the United States Navy, will likely take custody of his younger son while his 22-year-old daughter attends college.
Las Vegas, NV, September 2017
Former officer Richard Scavone pleaded guilty to use of excessive force and falsifying police records for slamming a woman's face into the hood of his patrol car. The incident was caught on video. From a Fox News report:
In a plea deal, Scavone, 50, admitted shoving the woman to the ground, grabbing her by the neck, slapping her head with his hand, then slamming her face twice into the hood of the car, FOX5 in Las Vegas reported.
He also slammed her into one of the car’s doors, the report said.
The woman suffered unspecified “bodily injury,” the indictment said.
The officer had become angry when the woman tossed her coffee at him after he told her to leave the area, FOX5 reported.
Scavone admitted knowing that what he did was against the law, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. He faces a maximum sentence of up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
Chicago, IL, August 2017
Officer Marco Proano was convicted for a shooting that injured two teens. From a report by Chicago's NBC TV affiliate, Channel 5:
Police dashcam video captured the moment Officer Marco Proano fired his service weapon into a car full of teenagers the night of December 22, 2013.
Investigators found that he fired 16 shots in all, and a grand jury indicted Proano in 2016 on charges that he violated the civil rights of the teens – whose families already reached a civil settlement with the City of Chicago.
Proano was charged with two counts of unreasonable use of force, with each count carrying a maximum sentence of 19 years in prison.
The trial marked the first time in at least 15 years that a Chicago police officer faced federal criminal charges in connection with an on-duty shooting.