Sunday morning, August 4, 2013, 4:30 a.m., fast asleep in the still of the night. Or not.
The sounds of men and women screaming on Townley Street, Hartford, CT. Should we get up? No. Go back to sleep. Then someone yells the magic words:
“Get his badge number! Get his badge number! Get his badge number!”
The inferences ripe in that exclamation propel me out of bed, into the street in 30 seconds.
Four or five cops cars line the south side of Townley, and in front of the brick apartments on the north side stand a half dozen onlookers.
I can see a kid, maybe 20, 22, sitting in the back seat of a cruiser.
Apparently, neighbors called in the early morning fighting between family and friends in a ground floor apartment. This kid wanted to get out, so he stood outside, leaning against a car eating.
HPD rolls in, and officers commence upon him with a billy club. I was reluctant to believe the story from his big sister, whose grainy smartphone video seemed to reveal a cop stomping on this kind’s back while he was face down on Townley Street in handcuffs.
(Note to would-be witnesses of police brutality: use a steady hand when videotaping cops, and focus on the action. Your job as videographer is to capture the injustice. Pointing the camera at the ground, at the stars and at the car trunk on the way to the brutality makes you miss the brutality.)
I heard the cops saying this kid needs to get to a hospital, and then they took off.
But when the neighbor enrolled in criminal justice studies at a good university with an internship at a federal law enforcement agency says she leaned out her window and saw the cops unload with the billy clubs, I’m more inclined to believe the need for badge numbers was real.
I’ve not heard boo about this incident since, and that kid’s life is forever changed. Who knows what injuries he sustained.
The five cop cars returned about 30 minutes later, attending to the 5 a.m. family argument that only stopped for the brutality. And the cops clearly had gotten the wrong guy. Just another day in the neighborhood, right?
I drifted off back to sleep, only to dream about police. At first, I was a cop. Then, I found myself in a room telling people the tragic story of my arrest by HPD and the CT state police at Jodi Rell’s inaugural parade. I wept while telling the story.
After more than six years of fighting for some level of redress for this false arrest and detainment, what angers me most is how the lack of justice forces me to concede the notion that Connecticut is a fair place.
Former state police Commissioner Leonard Boyle in January 2007 stood before the Public Safety Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly and then wrote a letter to Governor M. Jodi Rell explaining things about my arrest that weren’t true.
How do we know this? Because the sworn testimony of at least two state police officers directly contradicted what Boyle said, and, the Attorney General’s office has conceded that these two cops were correct.
Boyle misled the governor and the legislature and paid no price. I think he had a responsibility to know what happened. He let his underlings lie to him, and he has never stepped forward to correct his testimony.
No one lost their jobs. No cop ever received a slap on the wrist. Ostensibly, the political fallout to Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s first month in office was the worst that occurred to anyone associated with intentionally jailing me for 13 hours to protect her from protest.
Boyle, part of the non-partisan power establishment in this state, gets promoted to assistant chief state’s attorney. Many of the cops have either retired or been promoted.
But I can’t let it go. Every time I read about another news photographer arrested for taking pictures of cops, every time I read about HPD using racist epithets, every time I read law enforcement fiction in arrest reports, every time I see the creep of the military state, every time I read about Edward Snowden’s leaks about the digital architecture of oppression, every time I read about Bradley Manning, I am motivated to fight on.
In March 2007, the state dropped the criminal charges against me. In May 2007, I filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the police officers involved. In November 2009, a federal judge released all but one of the officers involved from the litigation.
In January 2011, I learned from a state police officer who witnessed my arrest that Boyle’s testimony misrepresented what happened. I also learned that in the hours, days and weeks after my arrest, both HPD and state police destroyed documents and evidence pertaining to my arrest. Shocking, right?
I sought sanctions in federal court, and the judge told me I had no recourse in his courtroom. Shocking again, I know.
In April 2011, I refused a pittance of a settlement offer from the City of Hartford, and took the matter to trial against the remaining cop. A jury ruled against me. Either my lawyer was a bad story teller, or eight random people in Fairfield County have no problems with pre-emptive arrest.
In the summer of 2012, I filed a claim with the Office of the Claims Commissioner seeking to abrogate sovereign immunity so that I could sue the state of Connecticut
Sovereign immunity is an ancient holdover from the divine right of kings (that long discredited concept which says the king is descended from God, so what he says goes). Sovereign immunity holds it is impolite to sue the state in its own courts. So if you’ve been wronged, kiss off. The state is all powerful.
I do not believe in the concept of sovereign immunity. I feel like it should be discredited much like the divine right of kings. If Connecticut is a government of laws and not men, then the state should be held to suit like any other wrong doer.
The Claims Commissioner has not ruled on my claims because the Attorney General’s office has waited more than a year to respond to one count, fraudulent concealment against the Attorney General’s office.
In January 2013, I determined to file my claims against officers associated with the spoliation (destruction of evidence).
The litigation remains mired in motion practice. The HPD officers moved to strike part of the complaint against them, saying I didn’t properly allege a cause of action. A judge should rule on that by October.
The Attorney General’s office continues to argue with me over procedural matters, avoiding the merits of the case. I will spare the readers the minutia of the technicalities we fight over, and I leave with you a sentence from a brief that my lawyer and I will file August 8, 2013:
“While reading the tragedy of democracy and self-governance that is this case, one wishes the State Defendants guarded procedural due process and technical rules on January 3, 2007 with as much zeal and thunder as they have done so in the six subsequent years of litigation of trying to avoid consequences of their totalitarian, barbaric behavior.
“We should all be ashamed to call Connecticut civilized if technicalities free from legal consequence those who plotted to cover-up the pre-emptive arrest of a journalist.”