Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ralph Alexander Files Lawsuit Against Officers

A scar on Ralph Alexander's leg is a constant reminder to the 80 year old Liberty Township man of what he says happened to him on November 18, 2006 when two Liberty police officers responded to a burglary call at his home.

According to a federal lawsuit filed by Alexander in 2007, he says the officers violated his constitutional rights by making a false arrest, using excessive force and malicious prosecution. Alexander says he was tasered by police officers, Chad McGarry and George Bednar, when he ran out of his house with a loaded shotgun and refused to put it down. His attorney says Alexander had a live shell in the chamber for the robber, and he was trying to get it out before he put the gun down.

"The upshot was hands were laid on him. He was tasered, and his leg was open up, and he had a kinda nasty injury," said his attorney, Michael Rossi.

Liberty's police chief says he believes his officers handled the matter properly. "There is no question they acted very prudently, more prudently than they really had to. We will have experts testify so we can resolve it once we get there," said Liberty Police Chief Rick Tisone.

Alexander was arrested shortly after the incident and charged with two charges of assault on a police officer. Those felony charges were filed against Ralph Alexander in Girard Municipal Court, but were later reduced to misdemeanors and then dismissed due to speedy trial issues.

The civil case filed by Alexander is expected to go to trial March 3.

Daniel Hackett III Suing Pittsburgh for Officers Using Excessive Force

A Mt. Lebanon man is suing the city of Pittsburgh and one of its police officers, claiming that he was shot with a Taser several times for no reason.

Daniel A. Hackett III, 42, claims that the incident began on March 15 after he received a citation for failing to use a left-turn signal while on the South Side.

After he parked his car, the lawsuit says that Mr. Hackett, an accountant, saw a person urinating on a building and was nearly hit by a vehicle that ran a red light.

"In the immediate vicinity of these events, was a City of Pittsburgh patrol car in which defendant [Edward] Cunningham was a passenger," the lawsuit said. "As Mr. Hackett passed the vehicle he stated words to the effect that 'look ... there's a red light runner and there's a guy [urinating] on a building and I get a ticket for not using my turn signal?' "

Mr. Hackett claims he then walked into a convenience store but that Officer Cunningham grabbed him from behind and demanded his identification. When he complied, the lawsuit said, he was forcibly moved to the front of the store, and Officer Cunningham had his Taser drawn, pointed at Mr. Hackett.

"When he questioned Officer Cunningham why he was writing a citation and requested that his badge number be placed on the citation, [Hackett] was suddenly, without warning, and without any reasonable basis for doing so, Tasered several times causing him to collapse to the sidewalk," the lawsuit said.

Mr. Hackett claims he was shot by the Taser several more times while down on the sidewalk.

During the arrest, the lawsuit alleges, Mr. Hackett heard Officer Cunningham say, "this guy is from Upper St. Clair and he thinks that he is better than us."

Following the incident, Mr. Hackett was transported to UPMC South Side, where he was treated for his injuries. He then was taken to the Allegheny County Jail until about 3 p.m. the next day.

He was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct but was acquitted on Dec. 4.

Mr. Hackett is seeking more than $50,000 in damages.

City attorneys could not be reached yesterday evening.

Lawsuit Claims Utah Officers Used Excessive Force

Jury selection begins tomorrow in federal court for a trial stemming from a lawsuit that claims excessive force involving a Taser.

It stems from a traffic stop June 10, 2005, when Utah Highway Patrol says Anthony Rogers was spotted driving with a broken tail light. Troopers say he subsequently ran a red light and was interrogated for possibly driving under the influence.

He failed his sobriety tests and was about to be arrested, but that's when Rogers' attorney Michael Studebaker says the story took a disturbing turn.

He says, "Through the video we learned that actually at different times the Utah Highway Patrol/Riverdale Police officer used a Taser multiple times on Anthony, including while he was in handcuffs and in the back of a trooper's car. They actually took him out of the vehicle to Taser him some more."

In total, Rogers claims he was tased four times. More specifically, dash-cam video shows Rogers being tased twice as he's restrained by three officers. Then later, he is pulled from a police cruiser after he yelled and hit his head against the window of the car. Rogers' testimony indicates he was tasered two more times.

UHP says it was the Riverdale officer who tased him, but a spokesman for the Utah Highway Patrol denies excessive force was used.

"He was belligerent. He would not respond to our officers' commands," says Sgt. Jeff Nigbur. "And that is when he was out of cuffs and also after the fact when he was cuffed."

Nigbur says Rogers then tried to escape several times. Studebaker believes he has indisputable video evidence. He says, "Definitely, the video's there. I don't know how they can say he's out of control or not in restraints. There's three different officers on him, and when they go to execute the Taser on him just the first time, they actually have to jump off of him."

Riverdale police are declining comment pending the outcome of the court case.

Rogers is suing for damages.

Lt. Adrian Mascorro Arrested for DWI

A Brownsville police lieutenant was arrested last week and charged with driving while intoxicated, the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed on Tuesday.

Lt. Adrian Mascorro on Friday night was driving a 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche on Expressway 77/83, just south of San Benito, when a trooper spotted him speeding, said DPS spokesman Johnny Hernandez.

The trooper noticed the possible presence of alcohol on Mascorro's breath and put him through a field sobriety test, Hernandez said.

"After the field sobriety test he was arrested for DWI," the spokesman said. "It's a state jail felony instead of a misdemeanor because he had a person in the vehicle under 15 years of age."

According to the DPS, a state jail felony carries a sentence of 180 days to a maximum of two years and an optional fine up to $10,000

Mascorro was travelling with his family at the time of the arrest.

He was transported to Carrizalez-Rucker Detention Center where he was booked at 1 a.m. Saturday and released approximately 3 a.m. on a $2,000 personal recognizance bond, said Cameron County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Gus Reyna.

Mascorro has been placed on administrative leave with pay until the matter is resolved, said Carlos Garcia, chief of the Brownsville Police Department. The police department will conduct an administrative investigation into the arrest pursuant to departmental policy, he added.

"Lt. Mascorro has expressed deep regret for this incident especially for his family and the department," Garcia said.

Sgt Darryl Storey Arrested for Collision that Killed 18-year-old Woman


An Ontario Provincial Police officer has been criminally charged in the death of an 18-year-old woman following a collision in northwestern Ontario last December.

Sgt. Darryl Storey was arrested Monday and faces one count of criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death in the Dec. 3, 2008 collision.

He has been released and set to appear in a Thunder Bay courtroom on March 5, said a Tuesday news release.

The crash occurred between a OPP cruiser driven by Storey and a car driven by Jasmine Veneruzzo on Highway 11 and Twin City Crossroads in Thunder Bay.

Veneruzzo, an 18-year-old Murillo, Ont., woman, died from the crash.

Storey was believed to be have been on a routine patrol at the time of the collision.

The charges come as a result of an investigation launched by the Special Investigations Unit, a provincial body that looks into cases involving police and civilians resulting in sex assault, serious injuries or death.

Meanwhile, earlier Tuesday, the OPPalso announced that another officer has been charged with street racing for driving 65 kilometres over the speed limit.

Police say Det. Const. Heidi Fischer was not within the lawful execution of her duties on Jan. 31 when Brant County OPP stopped her unmarked police vehicle on Highway 403 for driving 165 kilometres per hour in a 100 km/h zone.

Fischer, an OPP officer for four years, had her driver's licence suspended for seven days. Her vehicle was also impounded for seven days.

She will appear in court in Brantford on March 24.

Campus Officer Investigated for Abusing His Police Dog

RENO, Nev.

University of Nevada, Reno's police chief says a campus police officer is under investigation following two separate complaints of citizen abuse and abuse of his police dog.

Chief Adam Garcia says the dog, a male German shepherd named Niko, was removed from service following the Jan. 29 complaint of animal cruelty. The dog was taken to a veterinary clinic for an examination and is being kept there pending an investigation.

Garcia tells the Reno Gazette-Journal that the incident is being investigated by the state attorney general's office.

Garcia also says the officer was placed on paid leave after another complaint was received Feb. 3 from several people alleging police abuse.

The officer's name was not released.


Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com
More Information: http://www.rgj.com/article/20090210/NEWS01/902100347/1321/NEWS

Officer Kurtiss Kessler Arrested Again for Domestic Violence

A Kenosha police officer with a previous conviction for domestic violence was arrested Monday for allegedly pushing his girlfriend, pulling her hair and hitting her with a shoe.

Kurtiss J. Kessler, 35, of Kenosha, was shackled and wore a blue jailhouse uniform when he appeared for a bond hearing in Kenosha County Circuit Court. A $2,500 cash bond was ordered. Kessler must post that amount to get out of jail.

As a condition of bond, Kessler will not be allowed to carry a gun. Unless that condition is lifted, Kenosha Police Chief John Morrissey said Kessler is not qualified to work as a police officer.

Kessler will be put on an unpaid leave of absence, effective immediately upon his release from jail, Morrissey said.

No charges were filed Monday. However, prosecutor Richard Ginkowski said a criminal complaint would be ready this afternoon in time for Kessler’s next court hearing.

Kessler was arrested about 8 a.m. Monday at his home. Kenosha County Sheriff’s deputies were called regarding what Ginkowski described as a weekend-long argument that escalated from name-calling to physical abuse.

The alleged victim, Kessler’s girlfriend and the mother of his young child, reportedly recanted after talking to investigators. Prosecutors relied on her initial statements for the bond hearing.

The situation allegedly began about noon Friday, when the woman said she told Kessler she wanted to leave. Ginkowski said Kessler somehow kept the woman from leaving and the woman spent the night.

By 10 a.m. Saturday, the woman said she and Kessler got into a series of squabbles that led to Kessler pushing her. The woman’s 7-year-old son — Kessler is not his father — said his mother nearly fell.

Arguments continued throughout Saturday, culminating when Kessler allegedly twice threw a remote control at his girlfriend. She was not hit.

Another round of arguments Sunday led the girlfriend to try to leave again. Kessler reportedly said he did not want her to leave, but the woman continued toward the door.

“I felt Kurtiss grab my hair and pull me away and down to the ground,” the woman said.

When the woman tried again to leave, she said Kessler threw a tennis shoe at her. Both of the woman’s sons were watching as the shoe hit the back of her neck.

Throughout the weekend, the woman said she felt she could not leave the home. Ginkowski did not elaborate about why, although another court official said the woman did not drive and relied on Kessler for transportation.

The woman tried to take back her story Monday. However, Ginkowski said, she told deputies over the weekend that she feared for her safety. She also feared that Kessler might lose his job at the Kenosha Police Department.

“That is in the balance,” defense attorney Larry Keating said.

Keating pressed for a lesser bond, largely because the alleged victim was not seriously hurt.

Mason rejected the request, largely because of Kessler’s job.

“He is a police officer and he, quote, ought to know better,” Mason said.

Kessler’s criminal history also figured into his bond.

In 2004, Kessler was charged for pointing his duty handgun at his then-girlfriend’s head.

Kessler pleaded guilty to vandalism and two counts of disorderly conduct for the November 2003 incident. He was sentenced to three days in jail and two years probation, which he successfully completed. He also was ordered to pay $1,500 in fines and pay restitution.

Other charges of vandalism, disorderly conduct and pointing a firearm at a person’s head were dismissed but read into Kessler’s record, which meant they were considered for sentencing.

But Kessler was suspended for 55 days without pay. Much of that suspension was served while Kessler was on bond, which also prevented him from carrying a gun. He could not work for four months, as a result.

Former Police Chief Dan Wade said investigators found nothing “legally substantial” to support the gun claim and, therefore, dismissal from the department was not warranted.

Morrissey said it was too early to decide Kessler’s future with the department in light of the new allegations, but said he would not wait until the case was over to decide.


Judge Curtissa Cofield Faces Disciplinary Hearing in DUI Case


A judge charged with drunken driving and videotaped using racial slurs while arguing with police officers was suspended without pay Monday for 240 days by a judicial review panel.

Superior Court Judge E. Curtissa Cofield, who was confirmed as Connecticut's first black female judge in 1991, apologized to the state Judicial Review Council.

"I regret that my actions may have tarnished the institution that I love," she said. "I've embarrassed and humiliated my family and loved ones, and disappointed my friends."

The panel determined, by unanimous vote, that Cofield's "disparaging and demeaning" comments failed to live up to the standards of integrity and impartiality expected of judges. The council could have imposed up to a one-year suspension and recommended her permanent removal by the Connecticut Supreme Court, but instead settled on the lesser suspension.

Cofield told reporters she would not appeal.

She was arrested the night of Oct. 9 after her car hit a parked state police cruiser in a construction zone on Route 2 in Glastonbury. Police say she told them she hadn't had any alcohol, but she failed a sobriety test, and urine tests later that night showed she had a blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit of 0.08.

She also argued with state and Glastonbury police officers. A surveillance camera at the Glastonbury police department captured the exchanges on video, which shows her using the N-word, calling a black state trooper "Negro," threatening that trooper's job, referring to a female officer as "little girl" and "Barbie" and using other offensive language.

"When I watched the video, I did not recognize myself," Cofield told the council. "The woman I observed that night is not the woman I am."

Cofield acknowledged that her conduct was "reprehensible," but said she did not willfully violate the conduct code because her judgment was impaired by her intoxication.

Judge Susan S. Reynolds appeared to stump Cofield when she asked why Cofield's comments were not racist.

"Why is it not racism .... hmmm. I think for crimes like bias you have to have intent," Cofield said. "All I can say is I was really intoxicated. ... I can't explain it. Why is it not racism ... I don't know. But if it is or someone perceives that it is, I apologize for that."

Other judges subpoenaed to testify said Cofield received above-average job evaluations and her reputation was excellent.

Marvin Zelman, a psychiatrist who said he has spent 15 hours with Cofield, testified that she was under a lot of stress in 2008. Her father died that year, her mother's house burned down and her adult children had legal problems.

"She's had an impeccable record (as a judge) for 17 years and I see no reason she couldn't continue," Zelman said.

Cofield has been accepted into the state's alcohol education program for first-time DUI offenders, and the drunken driving charge will be dismissed if she successfully completes the program.

More Information: http://www.kansascity.com/811/story/1025587.html

Shoot First...Ask Questions Later

A man is approached by four plain-clothed officers on the streets of New York City and is told to stop what he is doing and to put his hands up. The officers briefly question this young man, who is 23-years-old and a recent immigrant to America. The young man is confused and reaches for his wallet to show his identification. As soon as the young man makes this move, one of the officers shouts “Gun!” and the officers quickly fire 41 fatal shots into his body.

This man, Amadou Diallo, was viciously murdered by police officers on Feb. 4, 1999. Diallo was approached because he was mistaken for a rapist, as he supposedly fit the description. Diallo came to America from West Africa with the hope of furthering his education and living a more successful life. Sadly, his ambitions did not come true because he was brutally murdered by the police.

A few months back, in late October of 2008, a young man of just 20 years stepped outside his house because he heard suspicious noises. He was recently married, and his wife was expecting. He wanted to make sure that his household was safe, so he grabbed a broom and stepped out to his front lawn to see what was causing the commotion. Soon after, he was shot twice and fell to the floor dead. One bullet struck his heart. This young man was Julian Alexander. Today he is dead because police officers mistook him for a burglar they were chasing. This occurred in Anaheim, California, not too far from Irvine.

On New Year’s Eve, Oscar Grant was taken out of a subway train by police officers. He was unarmed and lying face down on the ground when an officer pulled out his gun and shot him in the back. Just before he died, Grant pleaded with the cops not to shoot him, telling them that he had a 4-year-old daughter at home. I could go on about how many innocent lives were taken by bullets fired by police officers; but the point is that police brutality happens all the time, and overwhelmingly, black and brown men are the victims.

The cops just get away with it.

Police officers are human like everyone else. But this also means that they may hold racist views that anyone may hold. The only difference is they have a badge and a gun. If they see a black man walking down the street, they can act on their racist thinking, can legally shoot and kill that man and label him as a threat to justify their actions. Police officers have the law on their side, while a man on the street does not. Judges rarely, if ever, sentence cops for their discriminatory acts toward innocent people. They are legally allowed to racially profile and murder black and brown people.

Diallo was shot because he “fit the description” of a rapist. What was the description? Diallo was black, and therefore a threat. Julian Alexander was black, 6-feet-5-inches and 240 pounds. Does his appearance mean that he should be dead? Time and time again, police officers use their guns and weapons before asking questions. Unfortunately, the murders of innocent people continue because the police can get away with it. The police have a job to “serve and protect,” but the question is, serve and protect who?

In the case of Grant, brave witnesses recorded the horrendous actions of the police and put it on YouTube, despite officer’s demands that they turn in their cell phones and cameras. This time, America witnessed inequality and racism in action. The video on YouTube that broadcasted Oscar Grant’s death led to protests in Oakland and around the country. People were not angry over this isolated incident that happened at the Bay Area Rapid Transit Station. People were angry because they have seen men like Oscar Grant murdered too many times before. Demonstrations against police brutality erupted because of the unjust killings of numerous innocent victims, who for many were sons, husbands, brothers, friends and neighbors. Grant was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

On Monday, Jan. 26, concerned students around the UC system gathered together to stand up against police brutality. UC Berkeley, UC Riverside, UC San Diego, UCLA and UC Irvine walked out of class and held a march and rally in honor of those who died from police brutality. Students expressed the need to be aware of this critical issue. They will not tolerate police brutality.

Clearly, the stories of Grant, Alexander, Diallo and countless others demonstrate that racist ideologies still permeate America, even though our president is black. People still die every day because of the color of their skin. We must be aware of what is going on, in order to make this society a better place. In a fair society, no one is above the law.

Written by Hui-Ling Malone. He is a third-year international studies major. He can be reached at hmalone@uci.edu.