No Great Bodily Harm: Another Continuance For Sgt. Myers

No Great Bodily Harm: Another Continuance For Sgt. Myers No major developments occurred on January 3, 2007 in the prosecution of Sgt. William Alan Myers, 14 year veteran of the Sheriff’s office, currently charged with using a Taser on an inmate who was fully restrained and hooded. Sgt. Myers’ attorney Tony Novak was granted a continuance until February 2, 2007. By the time Court Watchers arrived at 11 a.m. the continuance had already been granted, but we went down to the State’s Attorney’s office to get some of our questions answered. Julia Rietz refused to speak with me personally, but granted a conversation with C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice founder Aaron Ammons. The following material comes second-hand and any factual errors are the unfortunate result of my being shut out of the conversation. We invite Julia Rietz to attend a CUCPJ meeting that takes place every Saturday, 4 p.m. at the IMC to answer all of our questions. On November 20, Sgt. Myers was offered a plea bargain by State’s Attorney Julia Rietz that would involve dismissing the charges of illegally using a Taser and pleading guilty to falsifying a police report. Rietz informed us for the first time that the plea bargain had been modified to include charge of misdemeanor aggravated battery, in addition to disorderly conduct. Her argument was that the initial charge of a felony misdemeanor could not be pursued because there was “no great bodily harm,” as was required by law. The suggestion is that when Ray Hsieh was restrained, hooded, and Tased four times that “no great bodily harm” was done. Of course, the Taser is a perfect weapon because it is a supposed “non-lethal weapon.” It is a torture tool which leaves no marks except two punctures where the hooks dig into the skin and deliver 50,000 volts. One witness claimed that Myers’ victim Ray Hsieh, after being tased four times and let out of his restraint chair, was “balled up.” Other officers claimed that Hsieh had urinated on himself (another one of Myers’ victims, Trina Fairley, also says she peed on herself when she was Tased in an empty cell). According to Amnesty International, over 150 people have died from Tasers and medical experts have found that Tasers can cause miscarriages among pregnant women (Trina Fairley, in fact, was pregnant when she was Tased). The long-term impacts of Tasers have not been clearly determined by doctors. Yet the pain inflicted on Hsieh was, according to Rietz, not enough to constitute “great bodily harm.” Rietz claimed that she did not have the proper legislation to charge Myers. This was Rietz’ same defense when she said she could not prosecute Jennifer Stark, who killed bicyclist Matt Willhelm while fiddling with her cell phone, for anything more than improper lane usage. The case where Myers probably did cause “great bodily harm” was when he brutalized Michael Rich in November 2004, a year before he was turned in for using a Taser on Hsieh. According to a complaint filed by Rich, Myers smashed his head against a wall. Myers then put him in a restraint chair and put a hood over him while Myers and another officer beat him in the back of the head. He then used a Taser on Rich. While “great bodily harm” is not clear in the Hsieh case, the evidence is strong in the Rich incident. Yet Rietz said that filing charges for Rich’s case would be difficult. Ironically, the same officer that turned in Myers had participated in Rich’s beating. This is evident from the police reports. In the police report by Urbana police officer Daniel Bailey it states that when Rich was picked up at the Canopy Club, “Rich was just verbally abusive and not physically” (Case no. UU0407560). In the report later authored by Sgt. Myers it states, “Mr. Rich was bleeding from his mouth area from the altercation he had prior to coming to the jail” (Case no. S-2004-5123). This time, Jeremy Heath (the very officer who turned in Myers) went along with Myers and falsified his police report. Heath wrote in his report on Rich, “his lip was bleeding a little when UPD brought him in.” The obvious conclusion would be to also fire Jeremy Heath from the Sheriff’s Department and prosecute him for disorderly conduct, if not also felony aggravated battery. But Sgt. Myers has been chosen as the sacrificial lamb and the goal for the Sheriff and the State’s Attorney is damage control. Justice, for them, is little more than a game. Truth is the last thing they are concerned with. Of course, what they are trying to cover up is the pattern of police brutality that the Myers case lays bare. Rietz says that Myers was a first-time offender. But, on the contrary, Myers committed a total of four abuses where he broke police protocol for using a Taser. Michael Rich, Trina Fairley, and Michael Alexander all filed complaints against Myers in the year before he was fired. Myers was protected each time by the Sheriff’s office who found all the incidents were justified. Myers was not treated then like an ordinary citizen, and he should be made an example of for his significant erosion of the public trust. Clearly, the State’s Attorney’s office is not looking to investigate Myers for his repeated instances of police brutality. I spoke with Trina Fairly two weeks ago and she had still not been contacted by the State’s Attorney. I personally gave State’s Attorney Assistant Steve Ziegler the phone number for Michael Rich, who he contacted but says he did not find credible. Despite the tough talk by Rietz that the inappropriate use of Tasers “will not be tolerated,” the opposite appears to be true.

Sorry I couldn't be there

Quick comment about Patrick Thompson: While neither is acceptable, if I had to choose between living in a country that allowed the abuse of prisoners and living in a country that allowed for the malicious prosecution of innocent political activists, (speaking from experience) I would definitely take the former. So if ucimc.org can prevent the former, you should still consider that a victory. I’d like to know how Steve Ziegler did not find me credible. It clearly can not be because of the fact that the charges filed against Sgt. Myers in the case of Ray Hsieh so clearly resembled the complaint I filed against Myers over a year before. It took a lot out of me to tell in the Champaign County Courthouse of the abuse I suffered from Champaign County, and I just wanted to leave it behind me. But after reading this article, I will get you the name of the FBI agent I spoke to and any other info I can send to you to help in the case against the abuse of this corrupt county. Thanks BD and C-U Citizens for Peace and Justice, Michael Rich

Quick comment

I meant to say that I would rather take the latter. I apologize to anyone I may have offended. What I meant to imply was that I would rather take a beating for my political beliefs rather then face imprisonment for my political beliefs. And i hope that ucimc.org has not devoted any attention to the case of Sgt. Myers that would have been better spent on the case of Patrick Thompson.

I wish

I wish we lived in a country where inmates do not suffer cruel and unusual punishment and political activists were not targets of government repression. I wish political activists - such as Michael Rich - were respected for their heart and committment. Why some local authorities would rather side with the agents of power than with honest, hardworking citizens is hard for me to understand. BD

"I wish political activists

"I wish political activists - such as Michael Rich - were respected for their heart and committment. Why some local authorities would rather side with the agents of power than with honest, hardworking citizens is hard for me to understand." It might be because of Dolinars lack of crediability and obvious bia in everything he does. Please for the sake of the future of UCIM get a new poster child for justice. Hardworking citizens get tired of this tripe and lack of even trying to work within the system to make change. Why don't you think the SA would meet with you? Figure it out ML, this site is the Brian Dolinar political activist hour, not the site that used to provide reasonable information about local and world issues.

No poster children

Please for the sake of the future of UCIM get a new poster child for justice. UCIMC and Indymedia in general don't really have designated "poster children," though "Indymedia poster child" might make a funny T-shirt. Instead, we're open newswires, which means that anyone is free to publish stories that they believe people need to hear. So if you'd like to see something different on the UCIMC site, write your own stories and publish them. Thanks to Zemblan's excellent work, UCIMC is very user-friendly, and it's easy to create your own account. You're free to remain anonymous, though we encourage users to maintain consistent identities.

Jury of my peers

I'll let my own peers in political justice be the judge of my credibility. Someone who operates under anonymity is hard to argue with. Do you have any questions about the Myers case? BD

BD, if you are blogging

BD, if you are blogging right now (and your clock is messed up, it's not 1:48 pm yet) what happened to Patrick today?

End the Trolling

Re: "Please for the sake of the future of UCIM get a new poster child for justice. Hardworking citizens get tired of this tripe and lack of even trying to work within the system to make change. Why don't you think the SA would meet with you? Figure it out ML, this site is the Brian Dolinar political activist hour, not the site that used to provide reasonable information about local and world issues." Indymedia was set up as media for activists. If you show up here and your basic critique is to start questioning why activists are allowed to use Indymedia, then you start fitting the character of various disruptive trolls who've been banned here. We try to be flexible about that, but if you persist in this trolling behavior and aren't a registered user, just keep it up and we'll deal with it under that policy. There's no need -- and it is against policy -- to discuss editorial policy issues here, so that is all that will be said on this subject. If you have something to say to me or wish to comment on our editorial policy, send an email to imc-web@ucimc.org Otherwise, you REALLY ARE just trolling.

PT Trial

PT is still a free man! Bob Kirchner and Ruth Wyman questioned 6 witnesses. Many surprises. More to come. Continued until February 7, 9am to hear more witnesses. Full post soon to come. Peace, BD

State's Attorney Julia Rietz on Sgt. Myers

Today on WDWS-AM 1400, State's Attorney Julia Rietz was questioned by a caller about the Sgt. Myers case. Below are her comments: Q: "If a police officer were to abuse me and I were to sue the county, who would be the attorney that would defend the county?" Rietz: "Well generally, we send those cases out, when this county is being sued, we generally send those cases out to private counsel." Q: "So there's no conflict of interest of you prosecuting police officers?" Rietz: "No. You're speaking about two specific situations, I believe. One of them is a case that's currently pending in court. And in that situation we filed charges against a sheriff's department sargeant who improperly used a taser against an inmate. In that situation, we acknowledged that the sargeant improperly used the taser. We settled the civil suit with the individual who was the victim of that case. And were proceeding against the sargeant. I don't see any conflict there because we're not defending the county. We're saying that the individual, the county employee, did not act within his official capacity. We've acknowledged the county's responsibility. We've settled that lawsuit and we're proceeding against the individual who was at fault." Q: "Could you explain how tasing someone while they are in handcuffs is not great bodily harm?" Rietz: "Legally, there is a legal definition of great bodily harm. The legal definition of great bodily harm is,...a permanent or lasting disability or injury. So for example, if somebody sustains a broken leg, has to have surgery, has some sort of a disformity or disfigurement, that is what's considered great bodily harm." Q: "But 50,000 volts, four times unnecessarily is not great bodily harm?" Rietz: "Because the taser does not leave any permanent disability or disfigurement, it would not be considered causing great bodily harm. In other words, the individual who's tased, isn't hurt permanently by it. It's a physical pain for a short period of time; similarly to if you were in a fight, and you didn't sustain some kind of a lasting injury from that fight. You are obviously hurt, you get hit, you sustain an injury,...but it's not a permanent, physical disability and so under the law,....it does not rise to the level of great bodily harm. It is bodily harm, which is a misdemeanor, but it is not great bodily harm which would make it a felony." Q: "What about a Class 3 Felony of Official Misconduct, where the officer performed an act that he knowingly knows is against the law?" Rietz: "Well, I'm not going to sit her and debate this case with you, because the case is pending, there are charges pending and we are handling this case-" Q: "Well, you've debated Jennifer Starks many times before she was ever brought to trial..." Rietz: "And I've given an explanation about what's going on in that case right now. It's currently pending, we have acknowledged that the individual who tased the inmate did the wrong thing, we've charged him criminally, and we're proceeding against him." Q: "Are you taking seriously the fact that he falsified police reports?-" Rietz: "I'm taking this case very seriously, sir! And we've charged him with falsifying police reports. He's facing-" Q: "Okay, so-" Rietz: "Excuse me, I'm speaking. He is facing felony charges. The sheriff brought this case to my attention. Both the sheriff and I made it public. We're not trying to hide something. We're not trying to make excuses. We are proceeding against this individual because he did not follow the rules. He did not follow department policy. He did not follow the law. And we have charged him. And we are proceeding against him as we would against any other individual who broke the law. I think that the sheriff and my office should be commended for the way we have handled this situation. We're not trying to hide anything. We're not trying to cover anything up. We're trying to hold accountable somebody who we say did not follow the rules."

Ummm...

What exactly was Rietz supposed to say? Was she supposed to pull the same kinds of stunts that Michael Nifong (the Duke prosecutor) pulled?

She is bound by existing legal definitions

I don't know if you're intentionally being obtuse or what... "Great Bodily Harm" has an actual legal definition and it is not "something that hurts really bad" or "something that someone can say with incredulity in their voice, such as '50,000 volts?!'" Police Officers routinely use tasers on each other during training. Yes, it's unpleasant and it hurts but it does not rise to the legal definition of "Great Bodily Harm." A major reason why Tasers have become so popular world-wide is because they do cause (in nearly all cases) temporary incapacitation with no permanent injury.

Isn't Death Equivalent or Worse Than "Great Bodily Harm"?

Trying to put happy faces on the Taser is an evasion of their very real potential to seriously endanger someone. Dismissiing Tasers as only causing "(in nearly all cases) temporary incapacitation with no permanent injury" is whistling past a graveyard filled with the victims of Tasers: http://www.azcentral.com/specials/special43/articles/1224taserlist24-ON.html http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGAMR511392004 http://www.inthesetimes.com/site/main/article/2894/ http://blog.zmag.org/ee_links/death_by_taser_lazy_cops_and_a_lazy_reporter http://www.campaignagainstthetaser.com/ Certainly, a Taser can leaves marks and scars. It is only by the grace of God that it may not have in the cases under discussion. Certainly it is a conflict of interest for Ms. Reitz to be handling these criminal cases -- when the outcomes could clearly expose the county to further liability.

Assault with a Deadly Weapon

I'm not sure if this guy is dead taser_in_eye
, but it sure looks like assault with a deadly weapon to me. I don't understand how their can be a legal definition that somehow remains stuck on the intent of the assailant -- unless the prosecutor wants to keep it that way.

Naturally, the sheriff's department would like to pretend that a Taser is not a deadly weapon. Maybe it's just not as efficient as a gun, but it can certainly have the same result. Tasers should be listed under the same category of weapons as firearms and treated as such under the law. Each use of them by a law enforcement officer should be justified, investigated and disposed of just as any discharge of a firearm should be. In other words, the officer better have clear authority to do so under the law -- or he or she should face the consequnces of misuse of a deadly weapon, just like any other citizen.

To minimize offenses of this type is not why I voted for Ms. Reitz. It's starting to become clear to me that the Champaign County "justice" system is rotten from head to toe. And all prosecutions start at the head -- in the prosecutor's hands -- so it just may be that the whole fish rots from the head first.

Adversarial Justice System

It's starting to become clear to me that the Champaign County "justice" system is rotten from head to toe. And all prosecutions start at the head -- in the prosecutor's hands -- so it just may be that the whole fish rots from the head first.

For better or for worse, the U.S. has an adversarial justice system. It's the State's Attorney's job to act as prosecutor, and part of that is interpreting laws. From what I understand, tasers are considered "less lethal weapons," rather than "non-lethal weapons" because there is potential for death. The discussion in the OP was about "great bodily harm," which is a separate issue.

I've wondered if the problem is loopholes in the law, rather than the State's Attorney. It seems like there are many forms of torture "interrogation techniques" that cause great distress without leaving obvious marks or broken bones. Look at waterboarding, or some of the Abu Ghraib abuses. The use of the taser seems quite similar to these. It would be nice if there were laws beyond misdemeanor battery to address this kind of thing.

The issue: Intent to Torture

Ray Hsieh, the inmate who was unnecessarily tased, was bound in a restraint chair when Officer Myers tased Hsieh four times. Myers and other officers were not in any physical danger from Hsieh. Myers use of the taser is not about how much damage the taser causes, it's about Myers' intent for using the taser. Myers decided to inflict alot of pain on an inmate for no other purpose than to torture that inmate. That's why Rietz paid Hsieh off with hush money in exchange for Hsieh never being able to sue the county. There was never any civil lawsuit from Hsieh. Rietz offered Hsieh, while Hsieh was still in jail and facing his own criminal charges, $10,000 and a get out of jail pass. If ever there was a "message case" to send, it's the Myers case where law enforcement officers are warned that torturing inmates is not tolerated. If Rietz finds Myers guilty of hurting someone then that validates three other claims that have come to light, Michael Rich, Trina Fairley, and Micheal Alexander. And some other county deputies and Sheriff Dan Walsh are culpable for covering up these incidents. God help you if you are ever abused in the county jail. Walsh, Rietz and others won't take your complaint seriously, lest an inmate have a legitimate civil lawsuit against the county. What's particularly sick is that Micheal Rich was being charged by Rietz for aggravated battery to Officer Myers. Myers had written a report that flipped everything backwards and attributed all the violence to Michael Rich. After a year and a half, Rietz finally dropped the charges against Rich. But Rietz knows her charging document was based on a police officer who now stands to be convicted of falsifying police reports. Again, what the real priority for this prosecuting office is avoiding legal liability. Rietz wants to have it both ways: convince the public she's vigorously prosecuting the case, and don't give the inmates any leverage to sue later. According to state law, she shouldn't be the one prosecuting this case since it's her duty to defend the county against such lawsuits. Her claim that they parcel out the defense against these types of lawsuits to private counsel may be true, but by law, it's the state's attorney who is supposed to defend the county in these matters. So how can she be entrusted to vigorously prosecute this case against a county employee when all the evidence she will have to produce to convict could be the same evidence the county would have to defend against in civil court? What we in the african american community will never be able to understand is: while our children go to jail for the slightest infractions- even decades of prison time for the pleasure of drugs that everyone enjoys-....this officer will walk home with no jail time for torture. Rietz will also troll the time to prosecute too. The last tasing by Myers to go unpunished was with Michael Alexander- the same week as Hsieh in early November of 2005. So....Myers won't be found guilty of anything until after September of 2007, so Alexander and Fairley won't have the time to be able to use the evidence from Myers criminal case against the county in a civil lawsuit. Tony Novak and Julia Rietz and Sheriff Walsh are just waiting till the time of civil liability is over and the public outcry subsides. Welcome to Champaign County. We wonder if Ms. Rietz is willing to go get the tools she needs to prosecute someone for torture and falsifying police reports with the same enthusiasm she is trying to grandstand before the public with the Wilhelm case and cellphones.

County Board Monday Jan 7

We're going to the Justice Committee of the County Board Monday Jan 7, 7pm. Make it if you can. BD

Jan 8

Oops - I mean Monday Jan 8.

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