2014 Memorial Day

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Let’s remember the real reason for the holiday this weekend.

Dedicated to my father, an infantryman in World War II, RIP.

And let’s not forget those that survive, but return with unseen injuries.

Magistrate Judge B. Dwight Goains and Judical Abuse of Rights


If you value the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, you may want to avoid landing in U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Dwight Goains’ courtroom.  He apparently believes that he is in the business of being an advocate for the government, including coercing witnesses and violating federal law on bond conditions.

This has been reported by Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice, the Texas Monthly, and Eugene Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy (now part of WaPo).  I will not be able to summarize the law better than they can, but suffice it to say that this country has a major problem, and it is caused by the war on drugs.

The DEA was looking for synthetic marijuana.  So they raid a commercial business, run by two ladies, with a full SWAT team.  Really?  Why?  They can’t go up and serve a warrant and search?  I’ve done that numerous times where there wasn’t a need for SWAT.

Do we want armed officers and federal agents threatening to shot a resident when they ask to see a warrant?  Especially since the agents broke into his home next to the tobacco shop without a warrant?  And then tell the resident that they don’t need an f***ing warrant?

They also claim that they didn’t do anythinneck-injuryg to one of the lady’s neck, and that she had “assaulted” the officer while he was sweeping her feet out from under her.  OK, I hate to break the news to y’all, but that looks exactly like the type of mark which would be left by the butt of an AR, right down to the serrated marks at the base of the bruise.

And if this was a butt stroke, then it is a use of deadly force.  I really have a problem with the fact that a DEA agent would apply a butt stroke to the base of a woman’s neck and then lie about it.

On top of it all, the magistrate judge takes it upon himself to coerce the women into a forced retraction of their allegations against the agents.

This is just outrageous.

Trekkies Win, Collinsville Settles!


Huff v. Reichert has been settled by Collinsville for $100,000.

After listening to the audio from the arguments at the Seventh Circuit, I understand why they settled.

The panel really questioned the officer’s attorney, doubting almost everything that he said, after pointing out that he had cited a case which had been subsequently overturned.  The exact quote was that the case cited “had been overruled on precisely this ground.” Ouch.  That is not good.  That hurts.  That hurts like watching Mazeroski’s Game 7 walk off home run, if you’re a Yankee’s fan.

And everytime that the attorney stated his position, a judge was shooting it down.  Why did Reichert pat down Huff and his passenger?  What reasonable suspicion did he have?  How does this even begin to be a valid search?  Etc.

I also noticed that Huff’s attorney was only asked one question, not related to the facts of the case.

I think that Huff could have held out for more.




Wisconsin Makes a Good Start


During the last week, Wisconsin lawmakers passed and Governor Walker signed a new bill affecting how deaths caused by police officers would be investigated.

Officer Stephen Heimness

Officer Stephen Heimness

In November of 2012 Paul Heenan was shot and killed by Madison, Wisconsin Police officer Stephen Heimness. Heenan had been drinking and had entered the wrong house on his street.  He was shot as he was struggling with the home owner and reportedly with officer Heimness.  Heimness said that Heenan attempted to take his gun and that he was in fear of his life when he shot Hennan.

An internal investigation conducted by the Madison PD and an investigation by the Dane County DA’s office cleared Heimness.  A federal DOJ investigation was reportedly started, but where it went is not known.  The Madison Chief of Police later found that Heimness had committed 118 violations of 13 department policies and Heimness resigned in lieu of a termination hearing.  The Chief, who later retired, said that the shooting was still a good shooting and was within policy.

Uh huh.  The lawsuit for wrongful death wouldn’t have anything to do with that statement, would it?


Billboards calling for change

This wasn’t the only case where the internal police investigation was questioned.  In 2011 Derek Williams choked to death in the back of a Milwaukee squad car, and although there was a finding of probable cause that officers committed criminal acts, there was no prosecution.   In 2004, unarmed Michael Bell Jr. was shot and killed and the Kenosha Police internal review found no wrong-doing after only 2 days.  Despite that, the city settled the lawsuit for $1.75 million.  Michael Bell Sr. then used the money for billboards and fullpage newspaper ads.  The settlement outraged the police – but the city and the insurance company doesn’t hand out that type of money unless there is a reason for it.

In any event, the bill, AB 409, now requires:

  • An investigation by two outside investigators, one of whom is in charge of the investigation;
  • Any internal investigation may not interfere with the outside investigators;
  • The outside investigators submit their report directly to the District Attorney; and
  • If the District Attorney does not prosecute, the outside investigators are required to release their report to the public.

This is a good start on what is needed.  As an example, in Dallas, Texas, a former officer was recently indicted for aggravated assault for her actions in shooting an unarmed carjacking suspect who had his hands up and was surrendering.  She is the first Dallas officer indicted in 41 years for an on-duty shooting.

It all depends on how the individual agencies implement the law.  For example, the policy issued by the Madison Police after the law is, in my opinion, not compliant with the new law.  For example, the outside “lead” investigator is allowed to “observe” the Madison Police department investigation and submits his observations.  It is not to contain the facts of the case, but only if the investigation was impartial.  The policy also states that the Madison Chief of Police is the sole authority on whether an officer is to be arrested.

That hardly seems to meet either the spirit or letter of the law.



Fourth Circuit shooting case involving a homeowner shot by approaching police officers – George Cooper, Sr., v. James Sheehan, et al.

1 Comment


This blawg post by a West Virginia attorney, John Bryan, hits the nail on the head (as does the Fourth Circuit in their opinion).

Originally posted on Use of Force Source:

In November of 2013, the Fourth Circuit examined a North Carolina case where approaching police officers shot and wounded a homeowner who was investigating the source of a disturbance outside of his home.  The approaching officers HAD NOT announced their presence and identified themselves as police officers prior to shooting.  The case was George Cooper, Sr. v. Jamess Sheehan, et al.

Read the Opinion here.

Listen the oral argument audio here.

On the night in question, police officers responded to a call involving two men allegedly screaming at eachother outside a residence.  The dispatch call did not indicate whether either of the two men were armed, or unarmed.  Two police cars arrived – one a standard marked car, and the other an unmarked vehicle.  Neither of the officers activated his blue lights or siren.  They apparently were wearing uniforms.  They parked at the end of George Cooper’s property…

View original 1,144 more words

Trekkies to Get Their Day in Court


In 2011 Terrance Huff and his friend Jon Seaton were driving back to their home in Ohio after attending a Star Trek convention in Saint Louis.  When going through Collinsville, Illinois they were stopped by officer Michael Reichert, allegedly for crossing the centerline.  A few months later Huff posted the officer’s dashcam video, which went viral.

Many of the comments suggested that Huff and Seaton should sue Reichert, which they did.  Reichert moved for dismissal which the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois denied and Reichert filed an interlocutory appeal with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  See Huff v. Reichert, No. 13-1734, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 4446, 2014 WL 906103 (7th Cir. Mar 10, 2014).

Before I link to the Seventh’s Circuit opinion, let’s look at the traffic stop.

First, the violation is probably BS.  First, there is no video of the violation.  While it is not required, officer’s who are concerned with documenting evidence will turn on the camera and get the violation (most have a buffer that saves the previous 30-60 seconds).  Second, this seems to be a recurring violation used by Reichert.

Second, when the reason for the traffic stop is over, the driver must be free to leave.  Here Reichert asked for consent and Huff denied it, saying that he wanted to leave.  Reichert told him that he could leave, but that the car could not.  Really?  On what grounds?  Because thus far, Reichert hasn’t shown anything even approaching reasonable suspicion, much less probable cause.

Third, during the open air drug sniff, Reichert repeatedly told his dog to “Show me where it’s at! Find it!”Id., at *4, 2014 WL 906103, *2.  Reichert even admitted that this was improper procedure and violated his training.  Well, duh!  He’s telling the dog to alert, which it conveniently does at the front of the car, out of the camera’s vision.  Really?  Gee, I would have thought that the scent of drugs would have been strongest at the doors and windows, not at the radiator.

Fourth, why is an arrest of over 10 years age even relevant?  Besides that, why even run Huff for his criminal history?  It’s just not done on a routine basis.  Sure, officers will check the DL and for warrants, that’s easy.  It is more difficult to run a CCH.  First, it is done separately from a DL/warrants check.  Second, you have to have a valid reason to run it, other than it just being a traffic stop.  Third, a CCH can take forever to return, and if you do get a hit, you have to run it again to get the details.  It just isn’t done on normal traffic stops, but it does explain his comment about the computer running slow.

Fifth, why was Reichert still on the street doing interdiction?  A federal judge had already found that his testimony about having probable cause to search a vehicle was not credible.  United States v. Zambrana, 402 F. Supp. 2d 953 (S.D. Ill. 2005).  OK, I’ll grant you that Collinsville PD fired Reichert in 2006 and the union got his job back.  But why doing K9 drug interdiction?  Isn’t the State’s Attorney Office required to turn over this type of information on officer credibility to the defense?  See Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).  This seems relevant, especially when you consider that a large part of the reason that Judge Michael Reagan noted that “Reichert thereby engaged in misrepresentation, deceit, and falsification” when he was earlier convicted of a misdemeanor for selling fake Oakley sunglasses.  Id., at 958-59.  Here it is clear that no one trusts Reichert, from the Federal Court to the state Circuit Court to the State’s Attorney to the U.S. Attorney, Radley Balko, Illinois Traffic Stop of Star Trek Fans Raises Concerns about Drug Searches, Police Dogs, Bad Cops, Huffington Post (Mar. 31, 2012, updated Aug. 7, 2013), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/31/drug-search-trekies-stopped-searched-illinois_n_1364087.html.

This is a disaster waiting to happen, at least to the taxpayers of Collinsville.  In the meanwhile, the police chief is standing behind Reichert.  This may be due to Reichert being the Officer of the Month in 2011.  The reason?  His good work in drug interdiction.

Of course, we’ll see what the city does next.

The court opinion is here.

See also:

Lakewood, NJ Police Arrest One of Their Own


jeremy_felder_lpd_tlsThe Lakewood, NJ Police and the Ocean County Prosecutor recently announced the arrest of Lakewood Officer Jeremy Felder for Official Misconduct.  Official Misconduct is a second degree felony, with a punishment of 5-10 years in prison.  N.J. Stat. § 2C:30-2.

After Felder was indicted and arrested, he was suspended without pay pending the outcome of the trial.  The charges against the original subject were dropped due to the misconduct.

Felder is accused of committing an illegal search in the Lakewood case, but had earlier been involved in the illegal arrest of Anthony Bell while Felder was an officer in Jackson Township.  The township settled the inevitable lawsuit for $95,000 while admitting no fault.  Felder was hired by Lakewood shortly thereafter, at a significant pay cut.

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