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.