Court Sends Cop Back To Prison For Bogus 'Contempt Of Cop' Arrest

from the classic-seven-words-you-can't-say-to-cops-skit dept

It shouldn’t take an appeals court to reach this conclusion, but that’s the route taken most frequently by people challenging their convictions. Former sheriff’s deputy Matthew Corder doesn’t want to serve time after being convicted of depriving Derek Baize of his constitutional rights, and so we’ve ended up at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. (h/t Sixth Circuit Blog)

This all stems from a “contempt of cop” incident. Baize returned home one night to find Deputy Corder parked in his parking spot in front of his home. Baize asked what was going on, only to be told to “mind his own business.” Baize then asked the deputy to move his car so Baize could park in front of his house. The deputy said he’d move his car “when he was ready.”

Nonplussed by the behavior of this supposed public servant, Baize told the deputy to “fuck off.” Deputy Corder asked for clarification. Baize responded: “I did not stutter. I said ‘fuck off.'” Baize then walked into his house. Corder claimed he yelled for Baize to stop. Baize said he didn’t hear this. It really doesn’t matter. Citizens are under no legal obligation to engage in conversations with law enforcement officers. The deputy’s testimony indicates Baize wasn’t committing any crime nor was he wanted for a suspected criminal act when he walked away from the yelling deputy.

Baize went into his house. The deputy followed. He banged on the door and told Baize to come outside. Baize refused, again well within his rights. Baize also pointed out Corder might want to get his paperwork in order if he wanted to set foot in the residence. The following was all caught on Corder’s body camera:

Baize opened his front door but left his screen door closed. Defendant opened Baize’s screen door and told Baize to come outside “or there are going to be issues.” Baize repeatedly refused, saying that defendant needed a warrant, but defendant responded that he did not “need no warrant.” Defendant told Baize that “right now you’re out here hollering at me and you ran in there, which means there’s exigent circumstances.” Baize again refused to come outside. Defendant reached inside Baize’s home to grab Baize, who braced himself against his doorjamb and said “you are not allowed in my house.” Defendant then entered Baize’s home, grabbed Baize by the back of the neck, and began to arrest him. Defendant’s fellow deputy, Billy Allen, arrived and assisted with the arrest. Defendant tased Baize into submission and completed the arrest.

Corder was wrong multiple times during this interaction. He did need a warrant to enter the residence. Given the circumstances, it seems highly unlikely he could have obtained one, having only the probable cause of being disrespected while parked in someone else’s driveway. He was also wrong about the circumstances. There’s nothing “exigent” about someone entering the home where they live, even if there’s a law enforcement officer on the lawn trying to find some way to regain control of the situation.

Nevertheless, Corder entered the home and arrested Baize, ringing him up on the two bullshit charges: fleeing (in the second degree) and resisting arrest. Baize was nailed with $1500 cash bond. The judge refused to allow an unsecured bond because Baize had been arrested for “evading” the deputy. Baize couldn’t afford the full $1500 and spent two weeks in jail. During that stay, he lost his job.

On top of that, the prosecutor and Baize’s public defender agreed on an order of dismissal (without Baize’s knowledge) stipulating that he agreed there was probable cause to arrest him for these charges. This was presented to the judge as something Baize had agreed to, even though it obviously lacked Baize’s signature.

Following all of this, Deputy Corder was indicted by a grand jury and convicted on both counts after a four-day trial. Corder appealed his conviction, raising questions about the sufficiency of evidence against him as well as jury instructions regarding the Fourth Amendment and the physical boundaries of residences protected under this amendment. Corder asserted Baize’s decision to answer the door after he began knocking on it somehow generated probable cause for a fleeing/evading arrest. The Sixth Circuit Appeals Court [PDF] doesn’t buy it.

[W]e reject defendant’s theory that the fifth element — “in fleeing or eluding the person is the cause of, or creates a substantial risk of, physical injury to any person” — was satisfied when Baize resisted arrest after returning to answer the door. For defendant to have had probable cause to arrest Baize for fleeing and evading, he must have had probable cause to believe that all of the elements of the crime were satisfied at the moment he sought the arrest. Wesley v. Campbell, 779 F.3d 421, 429 (6th Cir. 2015). By defendant’s own account, however, the fifth element — Baize’s creation of the risk — was not satisfied until after defendant initiated the arrest and Baize physically resisted. See Trial Tr. vol. II at 160:11-161:5 (defendant admits that he did not make the decision to arrest until “we were trying to bring [Baize] out [and] he resisted”) (PageID # 832-33); Def. Br. at 18 (“The substantial risk of injury occurred when Baize resisted arrest . . . .”). It is therefore impossible, under defendant’s theory, that defendant had probable cause to believe Baize had met all of the elements of fleeing and evading when defendant made the decision to arrest.

As for his argument that he did not cross the threshold to effect the arrest (or, conversely, that circumstances allowed him to enter the home without a warrant), the appeals court points to the deputy’s own body camera footage as evidence of Corder’s Fourth Amendment violations.

Defendant’s body camera shows Baize open his inner door, leaving the screen door shut. Defendant was unable to cross the threshold and touch Baize without opening the screen door himself (which he did), and all the while Baize remained several feet removed from his threshold, inside of his home. Baize was not exposed to the same degree of public view, speech, hearing, and touch as though he was on his porch.

As to the allegedly faulty jury instructions, the court has this to say:

Defendant’s proposed jury instruction is also legally flawed, as it incorrectly suggests that the hot-pursuit exception to the warrant requirement applies any time a suspect retreats into his home, no matter the circumstances…

Even if defendant’s proposed instruction contained a properly limited definition of the hot-pursuit exception, defendant fails to explain how the exception applied to his decision to enter Baize’s home. In Kentucky, second-degree disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor, Ky. Rev. Stat. § 525.060(2), and there was no physical evidence of disorderly conduct that Baize could have destroyed.

This isn’t Corder’s first outing as a defendant. He’s faced lawsuits before for misconduct, excessive force, and other civil rights violations. This David Meyer Lindenberg post for the now-defunct FaultLines details 20 years of abusive behavior by Deputy Corder.

In 1997, when Corder was an officer with the Louisville PD, a man named John Dennis Wilson accused him of pepper-spraying him in the face as he sat handcuffed in the back of a police car. Notably, Corder’s police report didn’t mention any pepper spray, and he failed to file a use-of-force report in violation of department policy. After Wilson sued him in federal court, Corder admitted everything. The city settled with Wilson for $15,000 ($22,500 in 2016 money). Corder was not punished.

On New Year’s Day, 1998, Corder arrested Adrian Reynolds, 34, who was wanted on a domestic violence charge. When other officers arrived on the scene, they found Reynolds with a broken face and Corder’s uniform soaked in blood: Corder had repeatedly beaten Reynolds in the head with his fist and flashlight. An internal affairs investigation cleared Corder, though the arrest made the news when prison screws beat Reynolds to death six days later.

Also in January, 1998, Corder was sued by 36-year-old Gary Branham after Corder punched him in the face and pepper-sprayed him while moonlighting as security for an amateur boxing tournament. Although Corder hit Branham with a number of charges, including disorderly conduct, they were all dropped when Corder failed to appear at Branham’s preliminary hearing. Branham’s suit was resolved when a jury found in favor of Corder and the city. Corder was not punished.

In October, 2002, Corder pulled a gun on and arrested a man for trying to repossess Corder’s SUV. This earned him his first trip to criminal court. According to the Louisville chief of police, Robert White, who fired Corder in 2003, Corder tried to make a deal with the repo company: in exchange for releasing the arrested worker, they’d let him keep the car.

This history — along with Corder’s history of lying to police investigators about his misconduct — forms the basis of Corder’s Fifth Amendment argument. Corder believed the jury was unfairly prejudiced when his past lies to police departments he worked for were brought up during cross-examination. The court denies Corder on this one as well, pointing out jurors had every right to know whether the officer on the stand was a trustworthy person.

Defendant argues that permitting cross-examination concerning his lies to internal affairs investigators in 1991 and 1998 violated both his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and Federal Rule of Evidence 608(b). (Def. Br. at 34.) Over defendant’s objection, however, the district court permitted the government to elicit defendant’s testimony admitting these lies. The district court based its ruling on Brown v. United States, 356 U.S. 148 (1958), concluding that defendant’s testimony about his own truthfulness had opened the door to such cross-examination.


On the record before us, as well as the authority offered by defendant, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that defendant waived his Fifth Amendment right as to his prior statements to police investigators. Defendant’s belief in the veracity of his charges against Baize was a chief issue in the case against him, and he voluntarily took the stand to vouch for that belief. Evidence of defendant’s willingness to lie to other police departments to protect himself from allegations of misconduct is relevant to, and probative of, whether he would lie to the Bullitt County Sheriff’s Office for the same general purpose.

Matthew Corder swings and misses on all arguments. This means he’ll head back to prison to serve the remainder of his 27-month sentence. He should count himself lucky. He was facing a possible eleven years for both counts. With any luck, Corder’s imprisonment will serve as a cautionary tale for officers who think they can arrest people just because they feel they haven’t been shown the respect they think they deserve. If a cop wants to tell you to “mind your own business” when he’s parked in your driveway, you should feel free to tell him to “fuck off” without worrying about losing your job and your freedom.

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Comments on “Court Sends Cop Back To Prison For Bogus 'Contempt Of Cop' Arrest”

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Mwhitetail says:

Re: Response to: Stephen T. Stone on Feb 20th, 2018 @ 5:56pm

I have lived by a rule that has served me well for more than 40 years: “The man with the gun is always right.”

This country seems to have forgotten that in their assumed entitlement to be asshole 24/7. I think this is part of the reason, but only part of it mind, that cops and civilians are clashing so often these days.

I’m 42, brought up during the 80’s. My family was mainly military of one type or another. But they didn’t instill in me instant respect for any uniform. Instead I was taught to respect the person, not the job, once they showed they deserved it.

This doesn’t mean be an outright ass to others, but it also doesn’t mean being cowering and servile either. Instead, a dose of common courtesy will go a long way to smoothing asshats like Corder down, and will keep you from being tased/shot and jailed in all likelihood.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Response to: Stephen T. Stone on Feb 20th, 2018 @ 5:56pm

Instead, a dose of common courtesy will go a long way to smoothing asshats like Corder down, and will keep you from being tased/shot and jailed in all likelihood.

You must have read a different article than I did, because the one I read involved someone who was more than happy to abuse his position and power(up to and including pulling a gun on someone for doing their job), such that anything less than ‘being cowering and servile’ would likely have been plenty of ‘provocation’ if he was in a bad mood or simply felt like it.

The solution to thugs like that is not ‘common courtesy’ or making it out like simply being rude is even remotely justification for their actions, it’s to remove them from their position(possibly including charges for their actions) as they’ve demonstrated that they are not fit to hold the power and authority it involves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Response to: Stephen T. Stone on Feb 20th, 2018 @ 5:56pm

While I agree with you, my experience as a person with (therapist-diagnosed) high-functioning autism is this: politeness is often a lie, but a useful lie, that greases social interaction. I hate social interaction, it is tiring and stressful to me, but I know that there are worse things, (like physical interaction), so I put up with it.

Or in other words, “common courtesy” doesn’t make “bad things” into “good things”, it helps stop “bad things” from devolving into “worse things”. To give an example from this story, avoiding saying “fuck off”(“common courtesy”), will/might stop the cop who is taking your space(“bad thing”) and is willing to perjure themselves(“bad thing”), and willing to violate your rights(‘bad thing”), from actually violating your rights(“worse thing”), arresting you for ‘contempt of cop’ (“worse thing”), and, in the current climate, possibly shooting or tasing you (“worse thing”).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Response to: Stephen T. Stone on Feb 20th, 2018 @ 5:56pm

So respect is earned unless you’re taking to a cop. In which case you should offer to toss him off with a smile, is pretty much the point you’ve just made. Your family taught you the wrong lession and you’ve earned my comtempt for being a cowardly boot licker. .

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Cops and civilians are “clashing” more these days because the bad cops somehow got it through their heads that they can be abusive towards civilians—especially Black civilians—and receive a slap on the wrist more often than not. It ain’t about civilians being assholes; it’s about cops being allowed to get away with clear-cut abuses of power.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Can't imagine why they'd think that...

the bad cops somehow got it through their heads that they can be abusive towards civilians—especially Black civilians—and receive a slap on the wrist more often than not.

From the excerpt in the article:

a man named John Dennis Wilson accused him of pepper-spraying him in the face as he sat handcuffed in the back of a police car. … Corder was not punished.’

Corder had repeatedly beaten Reynolds in the head with his fist and flashlight. An internal affairs investigation cleared Corder,

Corder punched him in the face and pepper-sprayed him while moonlighting as security for an amateur boxing tournament. … Branham’s suit was resolved when a jury found in favor of Corder and the city. Corder was not punished.

Corder pulled a gun on and arrested a man for trying to repossess Corder’s SUV. … Corder tried to make a deal with the repo company: in exchange for releasing the arrested worker, they’d let him keep the car.

It took literally pulling a gun on someone and attempted extortion before he faced any sort of punishment for his actions. If police have the idea that they can get away with anything it’s because more often than not it’s completely true. And while that last bit did apparently result in his being fired it would seem it didn’t stick, given he was acting and employed as a police officer when this particular abuse of power happened.

Douglas L Self (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Cops ARE Civilians TOO

THANKS for pointing this out! Anyone that’s served in the military especially should be PISSED at some CIVILIAN in costume with a tin star or badge referred to those CITIZENS that (s)he’s employed to serve as “Civilians”, implying that (s)he’s part of an occupying military force. Any military member has sworn an inviolate oath to defend this Country and its Constitution which hasn’t abated just because (s)he’s no longer on active duty. At minimum, let’s put these asshats back in their place!

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Everyone else a civilian.

Law enforcement is paramilitary, and they’ve been thinking of themselves as such Peelian Principles be damned.

Seriously, look at the camo-armor with subdued identity patches that they were wearing during the Ferguson unrest. Law enforcement officers (that are not plainclothes) are supposed to be identifiable in bold colors, yet they were dressed to hide in the bush.

All the law enforcement agencies from the small-town precinct to the DHS see the public not just as civilians but as the enemy and have for decades now.

The police are supposed to be civilian and civil servants, but they are their own caste, much like the Freikorps of the Weimar Republic

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Our Insect Overlords

I’m pretty sure most of the 21st century wouldn’t have happened if there was an overlord cabal controlling things. The whole point of having such an institution is to prevent chaos such as the 9/11 attacks, or the torture program or the opioid epidemic or the surveillance state or the Russian Meddling / Trump administration.

When the Goatse pic appeared en mass on Atlanta digital billboards, that kinda showed the Illuminati orgs had been haxx’d apart.

Munroe pointed it out in 2013 regarding our all-too-frequent government shutdowns. The point of such organizations was to prevent unrest, not agitate it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Our Insect Overlords

ok I might be able to buy that. Here’s another thought, for arguments sake lets assume there is a controlling cabal. And those in the controlling cabal have used their influence to become wealthy (or they were already wealthy). Their children are now starting to take over. Some of those children will be spoiled, say with the “I earned this by being born” attitude that also has them not wanting to pay taxes on money/assets they inherit (death taxes!!!!!). Now I can see those people letting things go farther to ‘keep the masses in line’ as it is ‘their right to do’.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Keeping the masses in line...

I would hope the vetting process before entering the Cabal would be more thorough than pure nepotism. It’s what Skull & Bones is supposed to be, and the Freemasons have an extensive initiation process (that is at least arduous and tedious. I’m not sure how it vets for personal ethics.)

But I do like the It’s only because we don’t see them that we know they’re there logic.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Was he parked in a private drive or out in the street?

Baize probably parked beside the curb because the cop was blocking his driveway. From the news article in Louisville:

The incident started when deputy Corder blocked the driveway to Baize’s home while lingering in the neighborhood after an unrelated call.

Probably a neighborhood where some people park along the curb while others park in their driveway.

Albert Rosenfield says:

Re: Re:

You listen to me. While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that I am a naysayer and hatchet-man in the fight against violence. I pride myself in taking a punch and I’ll gladly take another because I choose to live my life in the company of Gandhi and King. My concerns are global. I reject absolutely: revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method… is love. I love you, Anonymous Coward.

Anonymous Coward says:

No excuse at all for the cops actions.

TLDNR: Cop was wrong but citizen got fucked because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. Being right is not always enough.

DISCLAIMER: IANAL nor have I played one on TV or have I ever stayed at that hotel chain that makes you smart. I do however have an Associates degree in Administration of Justice.

YMMV depending on your state but commonly there are only two reasons a cop can detain you or tell you to stand where you re ( or come back outside )

The first is obviously probable cause, when there is a reasonable basis in facts for believing that a crime may have been committed.

The 2nd is reasonable suspicion, where the cop believes based on circumstances and their experiences that a person may be committing a crime. In most cases that come down to time, location and activity. Generally it means that a cop can ask you to explain yourself as to why you are where you are and ask for ID.

Happened to me once…was doing contract work in a public housing project. Cop was patrolling area and pulled me over to see why I was there. Showed work order and he told me that the reason he stopped me was because the only white people, in his experience, who came in there were the ones buying drugs. Had to concede his point.

Exigent circumstances: circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe that entry (or other relevant prompt action) was necessary to prevent physical harm to the officers or other persons, the destruction of relevant evidence, the escape of the suspect, or some other consequence improperly frustrating legitimate law enforcement efforts. Obviously the cop’s claim was total BS

The citizen was within his rights to ask if the cop would move so he could park. Asking what was going on was also a natural act when you find a cop in front of your house.

But how wise it was to tell the cop to fuck off is debatable. Not questioning the lawfulness, just the wisdom.

It’s not always a good idea taunt a cop when there are no other witnesses.

The guy was in jail for two weeks, lost his job and went thru who knows how many court proceedings because he couldn’t resist telling that cop to fuck off.

Just as in a pull over in a car, doing everything you can to frustrate and arguing with a cop means that they will start playing every game they can with you. They may suddenly detect the odor of marijuana and ask for permission to search or make you wait while they get a dog on site. In either case at the very least you are going to be spending a lot of time sitting on the side of the road.

Is it right? Of course not. Does it happen? Absolutely. Is it all cops? I would hope not.

The bigger issue here, to my mind, is that there is 20 years of documented abuse of power cases and the cop was still on the force.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s stated in the appeal court’s decision that he never even knew about it until a month later, when he showed up for a previously scheduled pre-trial hearing, only to learn that the case was already dismissed. There appears to be no dispute over that, at least in this case.

That said, I am very curious about what happened to the prosecutor and public defender. Frankly, I think that at the very least, the defender should receive a bar complaint for agreeing to that stipulation without ever telling his client that they were even taking about dismissal.

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