Submitted by Brian Dolinar on February 27, 2007 - 9:58am
On Monday, February 26, former Sergeant William Alan Myers pleaded guilty to charges of felony disorderly conduct and misdemeanor aggravated battery. Charges of felony obstruction of justice and felony aggravated battery were dropped. He received two years probation, a $500 fine, and 100 hours community service.
This is the third cop in less than two years whose abuse of power has gone unpunished by State’s Attorney Julia Rietz (whose husband is, incidentally, a cop). In July 2005, Urbana officer Kurt Hjort was accused of rape by a 25 year old woman. Hjort was fired from the force but special prosecutor Jim Dedman refused to even file charges against him. In November 2005, Champaign County sheriff’s deputy Ryan Garrett lost his job after reports of physically abusing his wife, who later left him, and threatening her boyfriend by telling him, “I’m a cop. Watch your back.” Garrett pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offense and received a two years conditional discharge. Garrett was represented by Tony Novak, the attorney who also defended Sgt. Myers.
In all three cases, the loss of their job has been considered enough punishment for these rogue cops. The response by Myers’ attorney Tony Novak is revealing:
“Alan Myers was a Champaign County Correctional Officer for over 13 years. In November 2005, he was a sergeant and shift commander. It is a thankless job.
Pursuant to his duty, he was attempting to control an extremely disruptive inmate through use of a taser. He failed to follow protocol and then attempted to cover up his violation, ultimately admitting the false report as contained in the charge of Disorderly Conduct.
The guilty plea to the misdemeanor battery charge was a compromise of a very close question of whether Alan Myers’ use of the taser went beyond what was necessary to control an extremely disruptive, mentally unbalanced inmate.
Alan and I decided it was in his best interest to accept the plea agreement although he has paid a heavy price in that he is unlikely to ever work in law enforcement again.”
Drawing attention to the length of Myers’ employment, and his service to the public for what is a difficult job, Novak says that Myers has paid heavily for his abuses. The suggestion is that Myers suffered enough because he lost his job.
Of course, if you or I, the average citizen, were caught stealing money at our job, or if we committed aggravated battery against an individual, we would not only loose our job, we would do some jail time. Because of the police officer’s unique position of power, the expectations of them to uphold the law are not higher, but actually lower than the ordinary citizen.
The 8th Amendement protects the public from “cruel and unusual punishment.” This is one of the cornerstones of the American Constitution and what makes it such a radical document. It says that even the worst criminals in our society still have basic human rights. Myers’ attorney Tony Novak makes it clear that inmate Ray Hsieh, even though he may have been mentally imbalanced, was being disruptive and deserved what he got.
The Constitution apparently has no jurisdiction in the remote cornfields of downstate Illinois.
The evidence in the case was that inmate Ray Hsieh was fully restrained in a chair, his hands and ankles handcuffed, while Sgt. Myers used a Taser on him four times.
Tony Novak said, “There was no torture here.”
This was conceded to by the State’s Attorney’s office. Assistant State’s Attorney Steve Ziegler said that Myers “pleaded guilty to what he did.” Ziegler would not answer my questions: Why did he not pursue felony aggravated battery against Myers? Why he did not file additional charges against Myers for falsifying a police report on Michael Rich? Why did he not even bother to call Trina Fairley, another one of Myers’ Taser victims?
The Sheriff was tight-lipped and had no comment.
The plea bargain given to Myers was covered by the News-Gazette, Daily Illini, WDWS 1400 AM, and WILL 580. Still, none of these paid journalists ever read the investigation into Myers where it reveals his abuses against three other inmates. Independent media journalists who broke this story received no acknowledgement for bringing it to light. Local activists who have worked for over three years to stop Tasers were not called for a statement. These people are volunteers who receive no pay and dedicate themselves solely because of their belief in justice. And then we are led to believe that it is police officers who have a “thankless job.”
Justice is a sham in Champaign County.