from the IMC Newsroom
On December 1, a continuance was given to former Sgt. William Alan Myers to resolve a plea bargain offered by State’s Attorney Julia Rietz. Myers is charged with aggravated battery, obstruction of justice, and disorderly conduct (Case No. 05CF2105) for illegally tasing inmate Ray Hsieh in Champaign County jails and trying to cover it up. In addition, corrections officers have testified that Myers illegally tased two other inmates, including a pregnant African-American woman. A fourth inmate, Northern Illinois student Michael Rich, has also testified that November 6, 2004, Myers tortured him with a taser in the Champaign County jail.
CU Citizens for Peace and Justice held a press conference, featuring testimony from Michael Rich, in the courthouse lobby shortly before Myers's hearing. The group is calling for a ban on the use of tasers and for equal application of the law.
Concerns over the use of tasers and conditions in the jail have become a county-wide concern since there have been six deaths in the Champaign County jail in two years. Tasers are used by the County in the jail and on the streets. The police departments in the cities of Champaign and Urbana have not acquired tasers in the face of strong public opposition.
In the past few years, Champaign County citizens have watched as law enforcement officers Hjort, Garrett, and now Myers have faced none or light punishment for crimes such as rape, stalking, and torture.
Over twenty five members of the public were present at the press conference, with Sheriff Dan Walsh looking on from the entrance steps and Myers's private defense attorney Tony Novak lingering by to listen in. Other people with court dates that day also looked on. Press representatives from WILL-580, the News-Gazette, and The Daily Illini were there covering the story.
The most powerful moment of the event was the testimony of Michael Rich, one of Myers’s victims, who read from a written statement printed below. In it, he sharply criticizes the “corruption and incompetence” of Sheriff Dan Walsh and State’s Attorney Julia Rietz. If Walsh would have listened to his formal complaint filed in May 2005, three other people could have been saved from the abuses of Sergeant Myers. Instead, as Rich points out, the Sheriff participated in an extensive “cover up.”
Rich contacted the FBI after Myers was arrested for illegally tasing Ray Hsieh. The FBI called the Champaign County State’s Attorney’s office, which said that they were planning to prosecute Myers and would not offer him a plea bargain. Quite the opposite occurred. On November 20, 2006, Myers was offered a plea bargain which is now pending and waiting to be resolved. CU Citizens says they intend to inform the FBI that Myers in facing a plea bargain involving conditional discharge - the lightest form of probation.
The entire press conference will run on UPTV. Stay tuned to the IMC website for dates it will air.
Statement by Michael Rich for a press conference on Dec 1, 2006:
Police Brutality at the Hands of Sgt. Myers and the Corruption of the Champaign Sheriff’s Department Under Dan Walsh That Allowed It to Continue
By Michael Rich
On November 6, 2004 I was taken into custody by the Urbana Police Department for an incident that occurred at the Canopy Club. I was not right with my actions that night at the club, but that does not make what happened later any less wrong. Attached is a copy of the complaint I filed with the Sheriff’s Department in May of 2005 detailing what happened when I was transferred into the custody of the sheriff’s officers under the supervision of Sgt. Myers. It describes how I had my wrists and ankles handcuffed to a chair, a bag thrown over my head, and the unnecessary use of a taser and the merciless beating I suffered by Sgt. Myers. What my complaint doesn’t describe is the nearly two years of my life that I lost fighting unjust charges of aggravated battery of a police officer. Charges that Sgt. Myers himself admitted were not brought against me until after he had handcuffed me to a chair and put a bag over my head. Charges that, due to the corruption and incompetence of both the Sheriff’s Department and the State’s Attorney’s Office, were not dropped until July 5, 2006.
In early August of 2005, I received a response to my complaint from Capt. James Young. The response did not give any indication that an investigation had been done into my complaint. If an investigation had been done, Capt. Young would have noticed that Sgt. Myers had said that when I came into the jail I was already bleeding as a result of the fight I was in prior to being brought to the jail. But the arresting officers made it very clear in their report that I was never in a fight before coming to the jail, that I used no physical force against any person, that none was used on me, and that I had no visible wounds. I had listed the names of several witnesses who could testify as to my physical state at the time of my arrest, they were never called. Detail after detail that raised questions as to the truthfulness of Sgt. Myers’ statement were ignored by Capt. Young. On August 28, 2005, I met with Sheriff Dan Walsh personally and brought my complaint to his direct attention. I left that day with his assurance that my complaint would be further investigated. Had Sheriff Walsh kept his word, what happened in the weeks to follow could have been avoided. On September, 19, 2005, Myers tased a pregnant woman for requesting to go to church services. The week of November 12, 2005, two more men were tased by Myers. Finally, Sgt. Myers’ abuse of power became so blatant that even the inept Sheriff could see it (or, he just saw no other way of ignoring Sgt. Myers’ behavior), and the Sheriff’s Department decided to act and charged Sgt. Myers with several felony counts. This would begin the Sheriff Department’s cover up.
On December 1, 2005, I met with Lt. Ogle and again recounted my complaint to a member of the Champaign Sheriff’s Department. I was left the with impression that the charges against me would be dropped, but told that because of jury trials, the prosecutor might not get to it for a couple weeks. In early January 2006, I threatened to go to the FBI if the charges against me were not dropped. Hours later, I received a call from Susan McGrath of the State’s Attorney’s Civil Division attempting to buy me off. I told here I was not interested in money, only seeing the charges against me dropped and Sgt. Myers fully prosecuted. Many more months passed, and I took my case to the FBI. I was told that, after the agency talked with the State’s Attorney, the FBI would not investigate my case because the State’s Attorney was not interested in making a plea bargain with Myers. But the State’s Attorney also told the FBI that I would be allowed to testify against Myers at his trial. Imagine my amazement when I learned that the State’s Attorney had not yet dropped charges against me for the same crime that they now were going to let me testify against Sgt. Myers for. Finally, on July 5, 2006, nearly 8 months after Sgt. Myers had been charged with the same crime I had accused him of 20 months earlier, I was free from the charges brought against my by Sgt. Myers. But I was never contacted by the State’s Attorney’s office to testify against Myers, until November 6, 2006.
It came as no surprise to me that the prosecutor, Steve Ziegler, waited until that day to contact me, I had always through this was about the county trying to avoid an expensive civil suit, and November 6 was the first day after the statute of limitations had expired to file a civil suit. But, as before, I heard nothing after that day about testifying against Myers. Now Julia Rietz wants to offer Sgt. Myers a “sweetheart” plea bargain for the despicable crimes he committed against me and at least three other individuals. It has now become clear that this was never about money; it was about keeping people quite until they could give Sgt. Myers the deal THEY thought he deserved. It was about delaying justice until I could no longer file a civil suit, and then disregarding justice completely. Perhaps justice is better off; it doesn’t seem welcome in Champaign County.
[ Editors Note: In Saturday's News-Gazette the article covering the press conference never mentions Michael Rich's presence or testimony despite the fact that he is part of the public record testifying to the State's Attorney office about his experience of torture ]