Continuance for Sgt. Myers: State's Attorney Julia Rietz Dodges Community Pressure

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 ]

News-Gazette Participates in Cover up

The report by the News-Gazette makes a gross oversight in its coverage of the press conference by failing to mention the appearance of guest speaker Michael Rich. Their willful omission of Rich’s testimony indicates the newspaper’s own complicity with the pro-police forces and their participation in the cover-up. In the News-Gazette story that ran Saturday, December 2, 2006, reporter Steve Bauer quotes at length statements from State’s Attorney Julia Rietz and Sheriff Dan Walsh. The written statement by Michael Rich given to Bauer, as well as police documents I personally gave the reporter would have been enough to point out contradictions in the accounts from officials. While Bauer publicly acknowledged the current negotiation of a plea agreement, he seemed to have no knowledge of the deal offered. On November 20, a plea bargain was given to Myers that involved dropping the charges of aggravated battery and obstruction of justice, if Myers pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. Bauer quoted Julia Rietz who said, “I think the Taser is an appropriate tool for law enforcement when it is used appropriately, but when it is not used appropriately, it will not be tolerated.” The disorderly conduct charge which Myers was prepared to plea guilty to was for knowingly lying about Ray Hsieh spitting on officers Heath and Mathews. In exchange, charges for illegally tasing Hsieh would be dropped. Clearly, this is tolerating the inappropriate use of Tasers. Sheriff Dan Walsh told Bauer that other complaints about Myers were investigated with no other concerns. I handed Bauer police documents regarding Michael Rich that show obvious concerns about Myers’ previous abuses. The police report from Urbana states explicitly, “Rich was just verbally abusive and not physically.” The report authored by Sgt. Myers states, “Mr. Rich was bleeding from his mouth area from the altercation he had prior to coming to the jail.” Myers had to doctor his report on Rich to justify his beating in the county jail. Apparently, the News-Gazette suffers from the same “corruption and incompetence” of the Sheriff’s office and the State’s Attorney. WILL-580 played a recording of Michael Rich reading his statement at the press conference, so surely Rich was present. Why the News-Gazette failed to mention Rich’s presence would seem a mystery if it were not for their past history of pro-police coverage. Once again, the News-Gazette serves as propaganda wing of the local law enforcement agencies.

important point

"....but when it is not used appropriately, it will not be tolerated." What does that mean? Does it mean all officers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent or does it mean they will loose their job and plea bargain to the least of all the charges facing them? Is this rhetoric or will we FINALLY see some REAL accountability for officers also? Not the Brady Smith, Kurt Hjort, officer Garret type of accountability. The inference in Mrs. Rietz-Johnston's qoute is that she is promising to send a message to all law enforcement in Champaign County that she will make an example out of officers who abuse their power and torture citizens with tasers, let's see.

Article from Daily Illini website

Continuance issued for Taser abuse case in Champaign County Jail By Sky Opila Posted: 12/1/06 on Daily Illini website A continuance was issued Friday afternoon on a plea for a case involving Champaign County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Alan Myers. Myers allegedly attacked inmates at the Champaign County Jail with a Taser, and is currently being prosecuted on charges of aggravated battery, obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct. "The case is not ready to be resolved," said Tony Novak, Myers' lawyer. According to reports from witnesses, Ray Hsieh, a 31-year-old man who was in the jail for stealing a vehicle, was involved in an argument with another inmate that led to him being sprayed with pepper spray and placed in a restraining chair. While in the chair, Myers, a 14-year veteran of the Champaign County jail, allegedly placed a "spit hood," designed to keep offenders from spitting on officers, on Hsieh, ordered the other officers present to exit the room and Tased Hsieh four times, with several minutes between each shock. The incident with Hsieh is one of at least four reported incidents of Myers using excessive force against detainees. Before the plea bargain was supposed to take place at the Champaign County courthouse, the Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice held a press conference to address their concerns about the case. During the conference, one of the victims of Myers' alleged attacks, Michael Rich, spoke about his experiences. While members from the group stood behind him in support holding signs questioning the use of Tasers in Champaign County, Rich, 23, talked about his encounter with Myers in November of 2004. According to a police report provided to The Daily Illini by the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, Urbana police said Rich was intoxicated and reentered the Canopy Club, 708 S. Goodwin Ave., after being asked to leave. The report noted that Rich was verbally abusive but never engaged in physical abuse. However, a report filed by Myers just hours later, stated that Rich showed up to the jail bleeding from his mouth area from an altercation prior to his admittance to the jail. Speaking from a prepared statement, Rich told the small crowd at the courthouse about his experiences. "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 and those under his supervision," Rich said, describing the complaint he filed with the Sheriff's Department in May 2005. "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." Rich said the charges of aggravated battery were brought against him for trying to defend himself from Myers' attacks. This incident stemmed from Rich. a Northern Illinois University student at the time, coming to Campustown to visit friends and to see a Night Train, a Guns N' Roses cover band. Aaron Ammons, co-founder of the Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice, said that the case is a great injustice because Myers may have entered a plea bargain that will allow his crime to be expunged if he keeps a clean record for two years. "There (are) witnesses and evidence to support these allegations," Ammons said. "Yet, we fully expect that Sgt. Myers will face absolutely no charges for torturing these citizens." © Copyright 2006 The Daily Illini

Good Job

Notice how Sky Opila, student reporter for the Daily Illini, writes a better, more objective, account of the Myers story than what appeared in the News-Gazette, a "professional" publication. BD

Next court date

Myers will be in court again on January 3, 11 a.m. in Courtroom A. BD

New Report

I am happy to report that Trina Fairley has given birth to a healthy baby girl! BD

From prison...

From prison...

Actually

Actually, IDOC lists Fairley as being currently on parole. But thanks for the troll. Please drive on through.

born into freedom

Actually, I spoke to Trina Fairley a couple days ago. This was the first she heard about Myers' prosecution. The State's Attorney has not contacted her. BD

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