Mon May 18, 2009 11:48 pm GMT
Donna Deiss police brutality criminal trial abruptly ends
by Becky Johnson
May 18, 2009
Santa Cruz, Ca. -- When Donna Deiss went to put sugar in her cup of
coffee the last thing she thought was that she would be assaulted by a
police officer, but that is what occurred. SCPD Lt. Christian LeMoss
grabbed Donna from behind as she stepped into her RV, grabbed her arm,
hurled her backwards and into a parked car, and then dropped her onto
the ground hard enough to break her arm. She was initially charged
with assault and battery on a police officer, and resisting arrest.
Then a charge of drug paraphernalia was added three days later. Then
that was dropped. By June 28th, the assault and battery on a police
officer charge had also been dropped. Today, in a plea bargain, she
plead no lo contendere to an infraction littering charge and the
resisting arrest charge was dropped. She has been ordered to perform
community service at a non-profit organization.
"I'm so relieved," Donna stated outside the courtroom as she met with
her two attorneys, Ben Rice, Greg Coben and another supporter. "This
whole case has been a nightmare." Rice defended Donna in her criminal
trial. Coben is her attorney for her civil suit against the City.
FOR THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE PLEASE READ IT AT:
Mon May 18, 2009 3:27 pm
From: Robert Norse rnorse3 at hotmail dot com
Subject: [huffsantacruz] As the Donna Deiss "break her arm, then
charge her with resisting arrest" trial begins in Santa Cruz...
Rampant Police Violence
How Many Kicks to the Head Does It Take?
By BEN ROSENFELD
A suspect crashes his car after leading El Monte, CA police on a
dangerous, sometimes high speed chase and flees into a residential
neighborhood. Soon cornered, he gives up in a backyard and lies face
down, arms and legs out, surrendering. An El Monte police officer runs
up, gun drawn, and kicks him full force in the head. He is inert after
the blow, possibly unconscious. This does not stop a second officer
from punching him repeatedly in the ribs. A third officer arrives and
lets a police dog bite him once on the leg. The first officer slaps
the K-9 officer a high five. All of them, the three officers and the
dog, have their extra-judicial treat for catching a bad guy. In court,
it would be the scofflaw’s word against three sworn police officers,
except a news helicopter catches the whole incident on live video.
The suspect goes to the hospital, and the officers goes back to work,
while the ACLU calls vainly for placing the officer who dealt the kick
on administrative leave. (He has since been reassigned to desk duty.)
Los Angeles, which has in the past erupted in riots over such brazen
police abuse, is mercifully quiet. The El Monte Police Chief Tom
Armstrong responds measuredly that he is withholding judgment pending
the facts. “I worked internal affairs for four years and I have
learned that you do not make a decision in a vacuum,” Armstrong
explains. “I do not know what was in the mind of that officer, as to
why he did that. I saw the individual turn his head toward the
As a police misconduct civil rights lawyer, I can say that what was in
the officer’s mind is probably the same as what is evidently going
through his Chief’s head: What can I get away with here, while the
public isn’t looking? In my ten years of practice, I have seen scores
of ordinary officers accused of brutality insert their cover stories
into the gaps in the video and other evidence. It is in such gaps that
they often blame the victim by pretending that s/he reached into a
waistband for a weapon, or reached for the officer’s weapon –
veritable police clichés. But there are no gaps in this video. It is
shot from overhead, clear, continuous, and unmistakable. The officer
lost his cool and punished the surrendering suspect on the spot with a
potentially lethal kick to the head. That much is painfully obvious.
If he stopped to think first, it was only to calculate, incorrectly,
that no one was looking.
But are we looking? What possesses a Police Chief, who is responsible
ultimately for the safety of both his officers and the public they
come in contact with, to let such an unhinged officer return to work
and to dither so before condemning his actions? Why should he not be
arrested forthwith and charged with felony assault or attempted murder
like any civilian in his shoes would be?
The self-evident answer is that Chief Armstrong is not interested in
accountability but in cover-up – notwithstanding his pious intonations
that he worked in internal affairs. An honest internal affairs
investigator does not supply an excuse for the officer under
investigation by saying, as Armstrong did, “I saw the individual turn
his head toward the officer...” Look for that dot dot dot to form the
foundation for the official excuse – unless the absurd excuse supplied
by the police union’s lawyer Dieter Dammier gains traction first: that
the kick was a justifiable “distraction blow” to thwart the suspect
from getting up or reaching for a weapon in case he might try to do
so. But if the video did not depict his complete surrender, it is hard
to imagine what that could ever look like.
Chief Armstrong may equate such excuse-making with the wellbeing of
his police family. If so, it is a dangerous equation. A good and
sensible police chief would instead consider what the lack of swift
condemnation of such brutality spells for the dynamics between police
and the public. Countless people in this country live amid an epidemic
of police violence. Rare videos like this one only serve to assuage
the mainstream that brutality is rare, is addressed when it arises,
and therefore does not demand systemic reform. On the contrary,
rampant police abuse is creating a widening gulf of mistrust between
police and the public they putatively serve. Common to many but alien
to the rest of us, it may help explain why someone like the 23-year-
old evader in this case would run from police in the first place.
On the police side, the failure to prosecute assaultive officers only
exposes responsible officers to danger by an incensed public robbed of
any reasonable hope for official accountability. John F. Kennedy
famously warned: “Those who make peaceful protest impossible make
violent revolution inevitable.” Officers, made more fearful as a
result, turn even more aggressive. So goes the vicious cycle. Have we
learned nothing from the Rodney King beating and riots?
But who could expect responsible local government action when the
federal government sets such an atrocious example? The President
inveighs that prosecuting the architects and executors of U.S. torture
policy, and releasing photos evidencing torture, may undermine agents’
morale and expose soldiers in combat zones to retribution or death.
But have we calculated the cost, in potential future attacks, of
failing to show the world that we can police ourselves and abide by
our own standards, let alone the cost to our own moral fiber? No
arrested criminal, or victim of U.S. torture, gets the benefit of such
nuanced, exception-based analysis. These double standards will undo
is. It is not for the perpetrators to let bygones be bygones and only
look ahead, as the President counsels. The victims do not soon forget.
William Brandeis, a wiser Supreme Court Justice than most, observed:
“Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or
for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is
contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt
for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself.” (Olmstead
v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928)).
Unless we are willing to apply consistent legal standards, we will
only spin further to the edge of our moral compass, and will find
ourselves putting down ever more justifiable rebellions by ever
increasing excessive force.
Each extra-legal kick to the head which does not jar us to our senses
becomes one more intolerable exception to democracy. We only get so
many exceptions before we simply cease to be.
Ben Rosenfeld is an attorney in San Francisco.