Lawsuit: Cops Trashed An Attorney's Home In Retaliation For Successfully Defending A Suspect Against Murder Charges

from the system-never-likes-being-beaten dept

An attorney in Virginia found out what happens when you make cops angry. According to Cathy Reynolds’ lawsuit, the Roanoke PD targeted her for some extra attention after she successfully defended her stepson from murder charges.

Prosecutors really wanted Darreonta Reynolds for murder, but security camera footage from the convenience store where the shooting took place appeared to show Reynolds shooting Jean De Dieu Nkurunziza in self-defense when Nkurunziza came after him with a gun. The jury agreed with the defense’s case, acquitting Reynolds after ninety minutes of deliberation.

This apparently angered someone somewhere in the Roanoke Police Department because this is what happened next. From the lawsuit [PDF]:

Just three days after D. Reynolds acquittal, Defendants targeted Ms. Reynolds for retaliation. Defendants broke down the front door of Ms. Reynolds‘ home after she had offered to let them in, “searched” Ms. Reynolds’ home for an individual by destroying her personal possessions, including those entirely irrelevant to a search for a person and left Ms. Reynolds traumatized, knowing that she could be targeted by police for engaging in constitutionally protected activity.

There may be some open dispute about the motivation for these actions, but the actions themselves can’t be denied. The raid drew a crowd, some of whom filmed the PD’s violent entry into the unlocked house — the same house Reynolds had left unlocked and invited the officers to search. It also attracted the attention of a local news crew.

The lawsuit fills out the details of the raid. And the narrative throws a considerable amount of shade at the participating officer with one impeccably worded paragraph.

Despite both screen door and storm door at the front entrance of Ms. Reynolds’ home remaining unlocked, SWAT officers used an entry tool attached to the front of an armored vehicle to puncture the screen door and rip it free from Ms. Reynolds’ home in its entirety.

In so doing, SWAT officers damaged the screen door beyond repair, heavily damaged the door frame surrounding the front entry, and tore vinyl siding from the exterior of Ms. Reynolds’ newly remodeled home.

SWAT officers then entered Ms. Reynolds’ home by turning the doorknob of the storm door which remained on Ms. Reynolds’ home, still unlocked, and pushing the door open in the manner a door is designed to operate.

Nice.

But that wasn’t the end of the destruction. Remember, officers were searching for a 17-year-old murder suspect, not an easily hidden amount of contraband.

During the search of Ms. Reynolds’ home, SWAT officers opened and searched all the drawers in Ms. Reynolds’ kitchen and detached Ms. Reynolds’ appliances from the walls of her home.

SWAT officers flipped the mattresses off all the beds in Ms. Reynolds’ home and tore all of the clothes from the closets in the bedroom.

SWAT officers tore the cushions off Ms. Reynolds’ furniture and emptied the contents of open soda cans onto the floor.

What the fuck.

On top of that, Reynolds alleges the warrant affidavit was nothing but a bunch of lies stitched together carelessly to give the PD permission to destroy her house — a warrant rendered unnecessary by Reynolds’ consenting to a search hours earlier. The narrative in that affidavit involves an ATF officer, their CI, and the assumption that the most likely place for a wanted murderer to be hanging out would be at the house of an attorney who had just successfully defended someone from a murder charge.

Given the timing and the three hours of apparently gleeful destruction, this certainly looks retaliatory. And, of course, it will be portrayed by the PD as just regular old cop stuff completely unrelated to local prosecutors and PD detectives “losing” a murder case. The end result of these efforts can’t be denied. Neither can the violent entry which was captured by citizens’ cameras. All that’s left is the defensive assertions of “reasonable” officers — all of which felt tearing apart an attorney’s house was the best way to locate a human being.

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Comments on “Lawsuit: Cops Trashed An Attorney's Home In Retaliation For Successfully Defending A Suspect Against Murder Charges”

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35 Comments
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That One Guy (profile) says:

Not wrong, but that's not a good thing

And, of course, it will be portrayed by the PD as just regular old cop stuff completely unrelated to local prosecutors and PD detectives "losing" a murder case.

Petty retaliatory vindictiveness and violence on the part of police arguably is standard and expected behavior for the goons in blue these days, but the fact that there’s nothing surprising about their actions certainly doesn’t excuse what they’ve done.

Hopefully the judge will see through the ‘just cops doing cop things’ bullshit, even better if they face personal penalties for acting like petty thugs though I suspect that yet again the public will be on the hook for any resulting fines, assuming there even are any.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not wrong, but that's not a good thing

Hopefully the judge

The judge will do jack shit, even if they are sympathetic, at best. "Bad PD. That was wrong. Use the taxpayers money to pay a penalty." Is the best the Attorney can hope for. While remembering, as the article implies, not to defend her clients too well in the future.

It’s far beyond time for these fucks to be shot dead. They are no better than terrorists. The only difference is the fact they wear a badge and have legal immunity for their actions. Actions that no real officer of the peace should ever be caught doing. Get rid of them.

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Anonymous Coward says:

No, your honor, it is not reasonable to assume the 17 year old murder suspect was hiding in my silverware drawer. I will concede that he might have been hiding in the collection of mason jars by the still in the basement, but the police tampered with that evidence.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Eh, or you could look at it differently.

You could also make the case that "defending* will remove any reason they have to not do this to everyone, instead of just those that piss them of, or have the wrong genetics (or what ever other petty reason they can come up with).

Anyone who doesn’t pay the protection fee would liable to be unprotected…. Hmmmm where have I heard of that sort of behavior before.

-* In this case by "defund" I mean "any reduction in monetary awards"

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

In a rational world they would have already been fired.

But hey its gonna be a bumper day for defense lawyers who are going to look for every case these officers touched & file lots of cases.

They are willing to use their position & the legal system to punish someone for successfully defending someone in court… what are they willing to do to citizens when no one is filming.

Oh and they had no problem lying to the court to get a warrant so how can we trust any testimony they’ve ever offered?

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Anonymous Coward says:

Roid rage, much?

Drug test the police – that level of stupid rage makes a tantruming toddler look like a stoic.

Start with the fact the video did the heavy lifting to show that the late Mr. Nkurunziza "shot first" to get a 90 minute deliberation. Then go to the shitload of reasonable doubt suggesting they likely intimidated witnesses in past cases – if they are doing so to defense attorneys in a public way it strains credibility that it was the first time they engaged in retaliation and intimidation. Add being proven liars giving grounds for appeal in past cases.

About the only way they could be more self-sabotaging would be practicing for a circular firing squad with live ammo.

Daydream says:

I think I’ve got cognitive dissonance of some kind.
On one hand, it’s not worth sacrificing human lives for wealth, whether it’s gold, oil or drugs or whatever.
On the other hand, I kind of wish that these assholes had gotten shot while they were in the process of maliciously vandalising an innocent person’s house.

Well…I suppose for a mental compromise, I’d be happy to see them arrested.

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K`Tetch (profile) says:

I'll tell you what SHOULD happen, but won't, *ever*

Ok, so they have committed criminal acts of

Threats to Damage building (VA law 18.2-83 – a Class 5 felony)
Use of Threatening language over public airways (18.2-427 – Class 1 misdemeanor)
Prohibited Criminal Street Gang participation (18.2-46.2 – class 5 felony)
(the police here would fall under the definition of such a group under 18.2-46.1 ""Criminal street gang" means any ongoing organization, association, or group of three or more persons, whether formal or informal, (i) which has as one of its primary objectives or activities the commission of one or more criminal activities; (ii) which has an identifiable name or identifying signor symbol; and (iii) whose members individually or collectively have engaged in the commission of, attempt to commit, conspiracy to commit, or solicitation of two or more predicate criminal acts, at least one of which is an act of violence, provided such acts were not part of a common act or transaction." which defines them pretty accurately here)

Assault and battery (18.2-57 class 1 misdemeanor)
Assault and battery by mob (18.2-42 class 1 misdemeanor)
Stalking (18.2-60.3 class 1 misdemeanor)
Burning or destroying personal property (18.2-81 as it was over $200 in value, it’s a class4 felony)
burning or destroying dwelling house (18.2-77 ‘felony’)
Entering a dwelling with intent to commit larceny, assault or other felony, while armed (18.2-91 Class 2 felony)
Conspiracy to commit felony (18.2-22 Class 5 felony)
Forging public records (18.2-168 class 4 felony)
Forgery of other writings (18.2-172 class 5 felony)
Perjury (18.2-434 class 5 felony – includes a ban on ever holding an office of honor profit or trust, which should include law enforcement)
inducing another to give false testimony (18.2-436, same as the line above)
Use of police radio during commission of a crime – this is getting fun! (18.2-462.1 class 1 misdemeanor)
obstructing justice (18.2-460 class 1 misdemeanor)

So, by my quick reckoning,
1 class 2 felony, 1 class 3 felony, 2 class 4 felony, 7 class 5 felonies, one felony of indeterminate classification, and 6 class 1 misdemeanors.
But they’re cops, so none of that applies to them, because they’re ABOVE THE LAW.

Actually holding cops to account by not only charging them with that, but by adding the aggravating factor of ‘doing it while employed as a cop’ (on or off duty – they should be naturally held to a higher standard) and an extra aggravating factor of ‘doing it under color of law’ – combined they should push things to the maximum of the sentencing ranges.
But they won’t, because prosecutors are afraid that cops will do this to them.

Finally, lets bring some accountability elsewhere. Judges are all too quick to take sloppy, poorly worded and often improper filings from cops. Be a lawyer and submit too many pages in a motion and a judge will start sanctioning the lawyer, but a cop can lie to their face, give them incomplete paperwork and they’ll sign off and not give a shit.
If cops submit fraudulent paperwork, judges need to get penalised too. If they grant paperwork that’s incomplete, or improper (like the bullshit boilerplate on the no-knock raid that killed Brianna Taylor for instance, that should have disqualified it from ever being granted) then we should be looking at criminal charges for malfeasance in office. Maybe then they’ll start doing their job as diligently there as they do elsewhere.

None of this will happen though, because you can’t expect the law to be beholden to the law. Where’s the fun in being a cop if you have to follow the rules too, might as well stack shelves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Strategy

I have a question that’s only partly flippant. When these idiots show up on your doorstep, at what point does preemptively shooting them become a reasonable strategy? If you’re Black, at least, there doesn’t seem to be a sure way to avoid getting shot yourself. Cops use the “but I was scared” defense all the time. Thoughts?

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Rocky says:

Re: Strategy

Never actually, for various reasons.

The only excuse you could have is the castle doctrine, ie a group of people breaks down your door without identifying themselves as police or federal officers and you shoot them you might get away with it, that is, until the moment they start shooting back which usually means, sadly, that anyone in your home is fair game.

AR Libertarian (profile) says:

Re: Strategy

That’s been on my mind too.

A group of people stood around and did nothing while 3 cops murdered George Floyd.

At what point are you justified in using force to prevent a crime? If it were not the cops, I know when. Why doesn’t the same standard apply when faced with homicidal cops?

If I do nothing while watching a black man get lynched, I am as guilty as the lynchers. Even if the lynchers are wearing a uniform.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Strategy

"If I do nothing while watching a black man get lynched, I am as guilty as the lynchers. Even if the lynchers are wearing a uniform."

Welcome to the United States of America, where interfering with said lynchers will see you strung up as well.

Nowhere is this as true as with the cops themselves. Two of the officers killing George Floyd had records. The other two were idealistic young rookies faced with the choice – help murder a man or face the ostracism and contempt of the people you’ll have to trust to have your back.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Strategy

"When these idiots show up on your doorstep, at what point does preemptively shooting them become a reasonable strategy?"

Never. At the point where you are singled out for a search, stopped in a vehicle, or with the cops poised outside your door all that remains is to find some way – any way – which might see you alive at the end. In no few cases the cops literally want you dead and are looking for any excuse they can use when questioned.

Anonymous Coward says:

i have to ask, was the person being sought found in any of the sofa cushions or,perhaps, in one of the kitchen cabinet draws, of maybe he had managed to disguise himself as a pair of the house owners knickers and hide in the bedroom closet! i mean, come on! if there isn’t all hell to pay over this, not just against the officers taking part but those in positions of authority who gave the ‘go-ahead’ for this, it shows yet again just how broken the system is and how much closer we are to a Police State! that is oh, so scary!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Who ordered the hit??

There is your verdictive person.
I believe the cops were in on it but cops aren’t smart enough on their own to come up with a plan. Somebody higher up knew about this before it happened. It shouldn’t be to hard to figure out who had the most to loose because of the acquittal.

Perhaps the DA didn’t like taking one on the chin.
Follow the money.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: SWATTING Lawyers

Police defenders are doing their job, though there’s something to be said about improving jury selection.

But swatting judges who side with police and err towards them (and against the public), and swatting prosecutors who cheat or who fail to go after officer misconduct. Yeah, the fantasy of having them SWATTED has its appeal.

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