Judge Calls Out Portland Police For Bogus 'Contempt Of Cop' Arrest/Beating

from the self-defense-against-excessive-force-possibly-a-thing dept

It doesn’t happen often, but a judge has called out police officers for using a non-existent offense — “contempt of cop” — to justify the use of force against a detained person. Multnomah County (OR) Judge Diana Stewart cleared 16-year-old Portland resident Thai Gurule of several charges brought against him after he was pummeled and tased by police officers for… well, basically for responding angrily to a somewhat derogatory gesture.

Police that night had been looking for a group of seven to nine African American men, including one shirtless one, who had been walking the streets, reportedly damaging property and yelling profanities. Within minutes of receiving the group’s last known location, police several blocks away focused their attention on a group of three young men: Gurule, his 20-year-old brother and their friend.

That was the narrative up to the point where Thai Gurule found himself on the receiving end of fists and Tasers. Ignoring the fact that this group had little in common with the suspects other than race, we come to what turned this incident into a confrontation and, finally, a one-side melee.

The following comes from the judge’s statement on the dismissal of charges:

As the youth walked past, Officer Hughes said, “Hey” to the youth and when the youth continued, he again said, “Hey” and clapped his hands.

Thai Gurule turned to face Officer Hughes and in an angry or aggressive voice said “Don’t fucking clap your hands at me”. Officer Hughes stepped forward while the youth stepped back.

Cue escalation. The officers decided to cuff Gurule (for “resisting arrest,” apparently). As a crowd began to gather, the officers decided to move Gurule into a prone position for cuffing, supposedly for officer safety. But rather than let Gurule move to a prone position, one of the officers decided to speed up the process by sweeping Gurule’s feet out from underneath him. From that point, it became an uncontrolled beating. One officer held Gurule by the hair while the other two wrestled him to the ground and hit him multiple times with their fists and knees. Finding the one-sided “struggle” to be ineffective, Sgt. Lile deployed his Taser.

After they were done throwing blows, the officers threw the book at Thai Gurule, listing all of the following charges on the police report:

Aggravated assault
Simple assault
Criminal threats
Disorderly conduct
Interference with public safety
Resisting arrest

The accompanying reports filed by the officers maintained that Gurule repeatedly swung his fists at officers and tried to choke one of them. Unfortunately for these officers, multiple recordings of the incident that contradicted their narrative were made available to the judge.

Judge Stewart was obviously irate at the thick stack of lies delivered to her in the form of police reports and sworn testimony. She also was none too happy with the officers’ justification for initiating the arrest of a person who had done nothing more than fail to treat Officer Hughes with as much deference as he felt he deserved. Not only did she dismiss the charges, but she read the entire damning dismissal order out loud.

In discussing the “resisting arrest” charge, Judge Stewart also addressed the pure BS motivating the officers’ arrest of Gurule. She points out there’s an exceedingly low bar that needs to be met to satisfy the requirements for bringing this charge, but the officers couldn’t even meet that.

Actual restraint was placed upon the youth at the moment that Officers Hughes and Hornstein placed control or escort holds on the youth. At that moment, even given the broad authority described above, there is insufficient evidence before the court that the Officers were operating under their community caretaking function, or therefore under color.

At that time, there is no evidence of concerns about a crowd forming. That concern arose as much as a minute later when the officers decided to take the youth to the ground.

Establishing this, she gets to the heart of the matter.

The only facts before the court are that the youth failed the attitude test when he turned and aggressively complained about Officer Hughes clapping him hands. Officer Hughes stepped forward and the youth stepped back and Officer Hughes, immediately followed by Officer Hornstein placed the holds restraining the youth.

And there it is: the bogus arrest was prompted by a little disrespect Officer Hughes just couldn’t handle. It is surprising enough that a judge would call out an officer for this sort of behavior. It’s even more surprising that she would move on to allowing an arrested suspect’s self-defense claims stand. In most cases, the judicial branch shows deference to police officers who use excessive force in their self-defense (“feared for their safety”). In this instance, the deference went the other way.

[W]hile a person may not use physical force to resist what is actually or perceived by the defendant to be an unlawful arrest, a person may use physical force in defending oneself from excessive use of force by an arresting officer. Any injury caused to an officer in the course of engaging in a justifiable use of force to defend oneself may under such circumstances be justified and not criminal.

[…]

In this case, the youth’s age is a relevant factor which the court considers even without the testimony of youth. Therefore, the question before the court is whether this youth and a reasonable 16 year old youth in his position would have believed that the use or imminent use of force against him exceeded the force reasonably necessary and whether he was entitled to defend himself with a degree of force which a reasonable 16 year old would reasonably believe to be necessary for the purpose.

[…]

The take down, although intended to be gentle and with adequate warning was nothing like that plan. Officer Hornstein swept the youth’s feet out from under him causing him the sensation of falling forward without the use of his hands to break his fall. The next 35 to 45 seconds was a melee of fists and punches and bodies falling upon him. Prior to reaching the wall, the youth was attempting to regain his footing and get back on his feet and remove himself from what a reasonable person would have felt was a senseless and aggressive use of excessive physical force.

Once at the wall, the independent evidence of the video clips is less clear but continues to show the youth trying to struggle away from the officers rather than engage in a physical altercation…

[…]

[G]iven that confusion, rapidity of events, the tangle of officers and the youth and the confusion caused by the crowd, I find that as to all charges herein, the state has not established beyond a reasonable doubt that the youth was not reasonably justified in the use of self-defense as to all of the charges herein.

And with that, Thai Gurule is no longer facing criminal charges. As of yet, there’s no word of what consequences, if any, are awaiting the officers involved. The city’s police department is only a couple of years removed from a DOJ investigation, but incidents like these show there’s still work to be done.

And, of course, the local police union has greeted this decision with assertions that the officers involved did nothing wrong and that Judge Stewart is nothing more than an armchair quarterback, but you’ll have to click over to Popehat to read Ken White’s entertaining/infuriating take on the union head’s counterclaims.



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Comments on “Judge Calls Out Portland Police For Bogus 'Contempt Of Cop' Arrest/Beating”

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69 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

See this? Fix it or stop whining

And, of course, the local police union has greeted this decision with assertions that the officers involved did nothing wrong and that Judge Stewart is nothing more than an armchair quarterback,

When video evidence shows police engaging in… well, let’s be nice and call it ‘misconduct’ for little more than refusal to grovel sufficiently…

When the facts are so contrary to what the cops claim happened that it is blatantly obvious that the cops are lying…

When even a judge isn’t willing to buy the ‘official’ story it’s so disconnected from reality

The police and their unions still dig in and insist that cops never do anything wrong, and to even question them is unacceptable, refusing to even entertain the idea that an officer might ever step out of line and need to be held accountable for their actions. Police your own, show that you are willing to hold those amongst you who abuse their position accountable for their actions, and then, maybe, people might begin to start to trust police again. Until then, stop whining that the public doesn’t trust you to act properly, you brought that on yourself.

Paul Renault (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: See this? Fix it or stop whining

Right now, the system punishes any cop who breaks ranks and tells the truth.

His suggestion would generate a hostile environment for any cop(s) unwilling to admit a mistake and insisting on using bullshit/unlimited-budget legal defense.

If you ask me, this would be a good thing.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 See this? Fix it or stop whining

Supposedly, unequal enforcement of the law is unconstitutional. And yet, if any non-cop got caught lying on the stand even a tenth as much as the cops in this case did, that person would be facing perjury charges.

But I’ve NEVER heard of any case where a cop got arrested for perjury in the middle of the court room.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: See this? Fix it or stop whining

Given their silence in the face of corruption and/or abuse of power and authority is a big part of the problem, I don’t see any problem with that. Might suck for them sure, but maybe if they were willing to hold their own accountable, and speak up when another officer crosses the line of acceptable behavior, then perhaps it wouldn’t happen so often, and the police wouldn’t be sued so often.

JMT says:

Re: Re: Re: See this? Fix it or stop whining

“…your suggestion would unfairly punish those cops who are not assholes.”

Which would be a great incentive for those cops not involved in behaviour resulting in lawsuits to sort out their asshole colleagues. Inaction by “good” cops is a huge part of the current problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: See this? Fix it or stop whining

re: Perhaps we should merge police pensions and lawsuit defense budgets. That would give them proper incentive.

I still see holding people responsible for the actions of someone else as a sub optimal response to the problem.

Those who think it is a good idea – are you sure there is no better alternative? Because this will encourage (force) those good cops to seek employment elsewhere, possible even in a completely different field. I assume that is not the intended outcome and would only make things worse.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: See this? Fix it or stop whining

sick of seeing this one.

The TAXPAYERS SHOULD ALWAYS BE FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE!!!!

They vote, if they are sick of their taxes being wasted then they need to change it with a vote.

Serious… the heart of this problem lies squarely with the taxpayers that vote in judges spewing the “tough on crime” lines in their campaigns!!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 See this? Fix it or stop whining

“TAXPAYERS SHOULD ALWAYS BE FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE”

Nice try Banksters.

In your wonderland where politicians, if chosen correctly, will solve all the worlds problems and everyone lives happily ever after … where does one find these magical creatures who are impervious to the corrupting influence of money, fame and coercion?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 See this? Fix it or stop whining

So I’m curious, where you live, do you get to vote on whether or not individual police officers are hired? Do you get to veto any potential hires that you don’t like? Do you get to do full research into the backgrounds and records of potential police hires? If an officer acts up, are you capable of firing them, either on your own, or through a vote of some kind?

If you answered ‘No’ to the above questions, then I’m wondering why exactly you want the public, who are already being screwed over by corrupt cops like the ones in this story, to be ‘punished’ even more, while the actual offenders get off without having to pay a cent.

randomjoe (profile) says:

Re: See this? Fix it or stop whining

The police and their unions still dig in and insist that cops never do anything wrong, and to even question them is unacceptable, refusing to even entertain the idea that an officer might ever step out of line and need to be held accountable for their actions.

Why not?

It’s all upside and no downside to police union. The only people whose opinion matters to the police union are other police officers and they eat this up.

Civilians? Pfft, who cares what they think.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: No such thing as a good cop

Exactly this.

Even if most cops do not behave like this, you can bet the majority are fully aware of the behaviour of those that do and choose to do nothing.

As such they are just as guilty.

The sad thing in this case is that had there been no video evidence not only would the cops have gotten away with it, but the child would likely have been found guilty of the completely made up charges.

It’s a truly disgusting state of affairs.

TruthHurts (profile) says:

Time for Citizens arrest, let's show the cops how it's done.

Find every last one of those cops, place them under arrest, and just hope they don’t “resist”.

They deserve to spend a minimum of 50 years in prison, with their legs and arms in shackles 24x7x365.25

Any cop who abuses his position should have the book thrown at them and all penalties be 10x what they would be for a civilian. It’s the only way to prevent these kinds of abuses.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Time for Citizens arrest, let's show the cops how it's done.

Misunderstanding? No way in hell. Those cops knew the kid did nothing to deserve arrest and yet they beat him and took him in. They then lied about nearly every fact to bring those charges against him. If it weren’t for the independent videos showing how much their version differed from what actually happened, this kid would be in jail right now and this is only step one in the ruin of the rest of his life. A misunderstanding is when someone takes an umbrella that looked like the own they used. This is not a misunderstanding.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Time for Citizens arrest, let's show the cops how it's done.

They should not be tortured, but they should be charged with assault. If found guilty, which they clearly are from the video evidence and the court ruling, they should lose their jobs and be subject to whatever assault penalties apply, including going to prison.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Time for Citizens arrest, let's show the cops how it's done.

You’re the only one who said anything about torture.
Perhaps if this happened to you, your opinion would be a bit different.

Give them a slap on the hand huh. What do you think has been the SOP for decades? It is this lack of law enforcement being levied upon those in charge of law enforcement that has led us to this place. According to the law, they are not above the law. They must adhere to the same laws everyone else does, but apparently the law has not been applied equally for some time.

At worst lose their job? Are you nuts? They simply go to another district and continue harassing the general public because they get off on it.

JMT says:

Re: Re: Time for Citizens arrest, let's show the cops how it's done.

Sure, the punishment described is hyperbolically over the top, but this was not a misunderstanding by any stretch of the imagination. Saying “nobody was seriously hurt” grossly understates the seriousness of the assault, which don’t forget involved multiple armed adults against a teenager.

TruthHurts (profile) says:

Re: Re: Time for Citizens arrest, let's show the cops how it's done.

If shackles are to be considered torture, then cops are torturing innocent people everyday.

In this case, we’ll add torture to the list of charges on these so-called police officers, as they tortured a child.

The story tries to lessen the impact by calling him a teenager, but legally, anyone younger than 18 is still termed a child.

By the way, forcing them to wear shackles is for their own protection. That way no prisoner will ever be able to say that one of these criminal cops tried to start a fight while enjoying the sun in the general prison population.

What the other prisoners might do to these criminal cops, now that’s another story entirely, but I do believe they’ll learn to never hit another innocent bystander again.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Police Union supports members who lie to a court.
This sounds like a group organized and working to subvert the legal process and hide the truth that their membership beat the hell out of an innocent person for not “knowing” his place.
Why do we allow these groups to exist, if they were Italian in suits with funny accents we’d have the FBI sitting outside gathering evidence to stop the criminal organization.

A badge does not mean you can’t be corrupt, and should never shield actions/statements from unbiased review.

And yet, these nice officers more than likely are still on the force because we have given them far more protections than any protection they offered the young man they beat. Still feel safe?

Anonymous Coward says:

FTA:

Prosecutor Lori Fellows had argued during closing arguments in the Juvenile Court trial last week that though the judge said police didn’t have lawful authority to stop Gurule, he still violated Oregon’s resisting arrest law. The statute states that a wrongful stop isn’t a defense to the crime of resisting arrest.

“There are obvious public safety reasons that the statute is very clear: You can’t resist arrest,” Fellows said. “The place to settle those disputes …is not on a street corner. That puts the youth in danger. That puts the officers in danger.”

But Houze said his client didn’t commit any crimes that night because he was acting in self-defense against unnecessary force.

This is the problem with current practices. People say that the street corner isn’t the place to deal with unlawful stops, that “you may beat the rap, but you can’t beat the ride,” but none of that addresses the fact that cops can beat the shit out of you, claim you’re resisting arrest, and statistically it’s highly unlikely that they’ll ever see charges, much less disciplinary action.

Essentially, the current practice is, if you don’t grovel enough (or sometimes even if you do), you’re likely to get beaten up (or even killed depending on the level and duration of violence and weapons applied against you), all if the cops feel like it, and they’re likely to walk away without so much as a reprimand.

Cal (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Prosecutor Lori Fellows had argued during closing arguments in the Juvenile Court trial last week that though the judge said police didn’t have lawful authority to stop Gurule, he still violated Oregon’s resisting arrest law. …”

What the Prosecutor forgets is that she took an Oath to support and defend the US Constitution, as did those “cops”. They all committed felonies when they broke that Oath, maybe multiple felonies.

The US Constitution is the Supreme LAW (yes LAW) of this land that all laws, regulations, etc must be in “Pursuance thereof” to even be lawful in this nation.

Oregon’s resisting arrest law is “null and void” against any US citizen and can only lawfully be used against someone working for the state of Oregon.

The right to resist unlawful arrest IS a constitutional one. It stems from the right of every person to his bodily integrity and liberty of movement, which are among the most fundamental of all natural rights. Substantive due process principles require that the government interfere with such a right ONLY to further a compelling state interest — and the power to arrest the citizenry unlawfully can hardly be characterized as a compelling state interest. The advent of governmental professional policing has endangered important rights, lives, and property of the American people. This” changing balance of power” between police and private citizens now revels itself by the unlawful power of modern police to easily use violence against the population, and to use unlawful arrest techniques with no consequences.

Ramon Creager (profile) says:

What needs to happen...

…is for officers to be charged with perjury when they are caught lying under oath like this. Their word can ruin someone’s life. Therefore they must be held to a higher standard. It seems that every time there is a video, they are shown to be lying. It will be the same-ol same-ol until they start being held accountable for lying like rugs.

eaving (profile) says:

Re: What needs to happen...

I would say not only should they be convicted of perjury but that conviction should be public record for future cases where said cop testifies. Even ignoring the fact that they shouldn’t lie for any reason, know that getting caught will effect their future credibility in court just might matter. At the moment there just isn’t a downside for them.

JoeDetroit (profile) says:

Is anyone actually surprised?

I’ve been reading about all these police incidents now for a few years & wondering if people realize that this is nothing new. The only new thing is the police are getting caught due to video recording.

I grew up in semi-rough neighborhood, had long hair & hung out on street corners, city parks, & stoops. That is what we did as teens & early twenties. Cops would regularly stop & shake us down, search us, & rough us up now & then. Weekly.

Everyone knew that one smart remark would mean a real ass kicking. A number of times friends of mine were hospitalized for “resisting arrest”. White cops, white kids, it seems that race was not an issue in my experience. It’s either that a gun & a badge gives power the corrupts or maybe it’s that perceived power that attracts that type of person to the occupation. This shit’s been going on as long as there’s been law enforcement, thousands of years.

Chris Rock said it best, if they cops gotta chase you, their bringing an asskickin with im. However, now days their violence is getting recorded for the world to see.

Kuni (profile) says:

Self Defense

The Justice Departments needs to clarify exactly what African Americans are supposed to do now that the ruling Oligarchy’s corrupt security forces are gunning them down and murdering them in cold blood with impunity at an accelerated rate vis-à-vis current laws regarding self-defense.

Take the following examples:

• Tamir Rice. An innocent 12 year old African American who on November 22, 2014, while playing in a park was murdered by the ruling Oligarchy’s corrupt security forces within 2 seconds of them showing up.
• John Crawford. An innocent 22 year old African American who on August 5, 2014, while shopping at Wal-Mart was murdered by the ruling Oligarchy’s corrupt security forces within seconds of them showing up.

What exactly are African Americans supposed to do now?

Will the Justice Department inform African Americans that Black individuals no longer have the right to self-defense and that they first have to wait until they are noticed and then murdered by the ruling Oligarchy’s corrupt security forces before they can defend themselves?

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: "exactly what African Americans are supposed to do now"

You are supposed to cringe.

As soon as you see a police officer, instantly drop anything that’s in your hands, throw your open hands in the air, and bend over in a respectful cringe, head toward the floor.

At no time may your head be higher than that of any officers, or may you make eye contact with an officer.

Remain in that position until the officer is out of sight.

If ordered to leave, do so walking backwards while remaining in the cringe. Never point your back at the officer.

Failure is punishable by death.

Anonymous Coward says:

So are these cops facing jail time now?
They committed fraud on the court by signing sworn statements they knew to be false, all to cover up their original assault on the defendant.

Or are they going to be immune from any repercussions simply because this kid isn’t an ex state senator or isn’t directly related to one.

http://www.azcentral.com/videos/news/local/phoenix/2014/10/30/18162595/

Christopher Weigel (profile) says:

Aggravated assault
Simple assault
Criminal threats
Disorderly conduct
Interference with public safety

I feel like all of these charges should be leveled at the officers in question, based on their behavior.

Any chance we could get a law that basically says “anytime an officer produces an utterly bullshit arrest, all charges you level against your victim will be instead filed against the officer(s) in question”?

DanAudy says:

there is insufficient evidence before the court that the Officers were operating under their community caretaking function, or therefore under color.

That bit is HUGE! If the officers weren’t acting within the under color of law that means that they are not afforded the qualified immunity that normally attaches to law enforcement officers actions in pursuit of their duties. While it is profoundly unlikely to find a prosecutor who would charge them (given the prosecutor would need both a spine and a new career afterwards) it sets up young Mr. Gurule for a pretty slamdunk civil case against the officers.

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