Body Cam Footage Leads To Federal Indictment Of Abusive Las Vegas Cop

from the accountability:-1,-cops-getting-away-with-stuff:-a-billion dept

Body cameras are working as intended. Of course, this is a very limited sampling and the fact that anything happened at all to the abusive cop was reliant on him being either too stupid or too arrogant to shut his body-worn camera off.

A former Las Vegas police officer was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on felony charges of roughing up a woman he suspected was a prostitute.

Richard Scavone, 49, was charged with violating the civil rights of the woman when he used excessive force while arresting her in January 2015 and falsifying his report of the encounter to obstruct an FBI investigation, according to the Justice Department.

The woman was identified in the indictment only by her initials, A.O.

Scavone, who also faces a local misdemeanor battery charge in the incident, has been summoned to answer the two felony counts in federal court on Jan. 20. He is to appear in Las Vegas Justice Court that day, as well.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal's depiction of the events ("roughed up") is far kinder than the DOJ's press release.
According to the indictment, on Jan. 6, 2015, while acting as a police officer, Scavone allegedly assaulted “A.O.” resulting in bodily injury. The indictment alleges that Scavone grabbed the victim around the neck with his hand and threw A.O. to the ground; struck A.O. in the forehead with an open palm; twice slammed A.O.’s head onto the hood of his patrol vehicle; and slammed A.O. into the door of his patrol vehicle.
And that is far, far kinder than the Las Vegas Sun's description of the incident from early 2015, when Scavone was only facing a misdemeanor battery charge.
Scavone said in a statement that the woman turned her back to officers, a statement police said was refuted by the corrections officer.

When she asked how she could put her palms together if he had her hands, Scavone threatened to "dump (her) on the floor" and handcuffed her, the report said.

He then told her to spread her feet, and when she replied, "My feet are straight," he grabbed the back of her neck and threw her on the ground, according to the report.

The woman cursed and told him to take her to jail, and Scavone struck her face with an open hand before grabbing her left shoulder and dragging her several feet away from his vehicle to get her on her stomach, the report said.

Scavone asked the woman if she was "finished fighting" him, the report said.

The corrections officer and Scavone picked the woman up and walked her back to the vehicle, where Scavone grabbed her elbow and reached for her necklace, police said.

When she turned away, he slammed her head twice on the patrol car, police said.

He reportedly told her not to pull away from him and reached inside her dress, pulling out a condom and a cellphone, the report said.

Scavone said in his statement he retrieved the items, which were in the area near her breast and armpit, at least partially for officer safety because they could have been weapons, police said.

The woman, who was not wearing a bra, told Scavone multiple times not to touch her breast, and Scavone pinched her right breast through her dress before removing an undisclosed item from inside the dress, police said.

Police did not find any weapons on the woman, the report said.

Scavone accused the woman of reaching for something, and he grabbed her ponytail and slammed her head on the patrol vehicle again, police said.

He pulled her ponytail as he pushed her head against the vehicle, and she screamed, the report said.

He led her to the back seat of the patrol vehicle while holding her ponytail and slammed her into the passenger window, police said.

"You resisted and fought me," he told the woman, according to the report.
The federal grand jury indictment is just that: a grand jury indictment. It doesn't take much to convince a grand jury to hand down an indictment, but it is rather unusual to see one stick to a law enforcement officer. The video captured by his camera apparently played a significant part in the bringing of charges -- something that will be applauded by accountability advocates and derided by police unions, etc. who still believe body cameras are nothing more than a nefarious conspiracy to punish cops for doing normal cop stuff.

The assault charge is one thing. It's the falsification charge that's going to hurt, if it sticks. According to the DOJ, Scavone lied in his use of force report. That's netting him a federal obstruction charge which could add another 10-20 years to his sentence if convicted. The civil rights charges alone come with a potential 10-year sentence and $250,000 fine.

Without the footage captured by his own camera, it's very likely Officer Scavone would still have his job and zero indictments. After all, the woman he apparently abused was suspected of being a prostitute. When it comes down to "her word against ours," a woman portrayed as a sex worker has no chance against an officer who had previously received a commendation for meritorious service. And contrary to the assertions of body camera critics, the department Scavone worked for doesn't appear to be poring through its recordings in hopes of finding cops to bust.
Las Vegas police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said it’s the first time his police department brought “criminal charges associated with the review of a body camera on an on-duty use of force incident.”
That the DOJ's press release doesn't mention the use of body camera footage in the indictment process is a little strange considering its push to spread this technology to law enforcement agencies around the nation. Of course, the DOJ is also instrumental in defending law enforcement officers against alleged civil rights violations. Sure, it investigates agencies with abusive histories, but it also works hard to ensure agencies remain legally immunized from the consequences of their actions and has mounted several efforts to keep Fourth Amendment protections to a minimum.

It's often a house divided against itself, which may explain why this detail has been glossed over, even if the tech that turned a non-event (according to the officer's police report) into a federal indictment is part of its overall plan to improve the nation's policing.

Filed Under: body cams, las vegas, police, richard scarvone


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 21 Jan 2016 @ 11:42pm

    "Scavone, who also faces a local misdemeanor battery charge in the incident, has been summoned to answer the two felony counts in federal court"

    Its only a few bad apples...
    Fine upstanding hard working men...

    How one can commit 2 Federal Felonies and yet the local justice system could only find a misdemeanor charge from the same incident? Because the system cares more about protecting its image than its citizens. The same footage resulted in wildly different outcomes and even with the ham sandwich factory angle it still is a huge thing to get a cop to face justice.

    Now after the trial and hopeful convictions the officer can and most likely will still sue the police force demanding to put back on the streets & get his back pay... stop laughing, I'm being serious.

    If someone had treated a cop this way on tape we'd still be waiting for them to make it out of the hospital so a whole slew of charges could come raining down... but be an enforcer of the system and if we have to I guess we could charge him with jay walking.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      klaus (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 2:48am

      Re:

      Rogue American cops - yet another reason to put off that trip to the States.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2016 @ 3:10pm

        Re: Re:

        That's sad but very, very true.
        I'd love to come over and spend a couple of years working in one of the bigger cities in the states, but with the clearly corrupt government, gang members having day jobs as policemen, and the security theatre required to get there in the first place?

        No thanks.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 22 Jan 2016 @ 1:19am

    [The DOJ is] often a house divided against itself, which may explain why this detail has been glossed over, even if the tech that turned a non-event (according to the officer's police report) into a federal indictment is part of its overall plan to improve the nation's policing.

    Just because they are not drinking from the toilet does not mean that they are a house divided against themselves.

    That's like saying someone is wasteful if he throws away mold where one cannot even recognize the food it was supposed to be. Partly because the mold has already evolved squaredancing but the caller is too sober to be convincing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 1:21am

    I don't know if Las Vegas police officers are better or worse than the rest of the country, but with all those casinos I'll bet they're on tape more than most others. There seems more cameras overall over there.
    And yes, I am aware that the large casinos are small part of the area and much happens away from there. Lots of neighborhood casinos though, most grocery stores and other retailers as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Vegas Chad (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 9:32am

      Re:

      Cops can't enter casino property unless "invited" so they are usually only there after a crime has been committed and casino security has taken control of the crime scene.
      LV Metro PD doesn't seem to have a lot more on-duty malfeasance than other police departments (lots of domestic violence, dealing drugs, running scams, etc), but I couldn't say if that is due to camera (both security and tourist) presence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PRMan (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 2:46pm

      Re:

      I used to work with them. I can tell you that they are pretty good guys for the most part (and I worked with a lot of departments), but they do cover up a LOT of stuff from the media.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whatever's inner man-child, 22 Jan 2016 @ 1:29am

    No! Noooooooooooooo!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 3:16am

    Now we just have to make body cams mandatory and make the "oh, it was disabled during the encounter" excuse weight very negatively towards the cops (as in your version has lost credibility dear sir). Then we will see real progress...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 3:31am

    And the really messed up part...

    The video captured by his camera apparently played a significant part in the bringing of charges -- something that will be applauded by accountability advocates and derided by police unions, etc. who still believe body cameras are nothing more than a nefarious conspiracy to punish cops for doing normal cop stuff.

    Look at it from the point of view of those that think like that, and they're right. Assault, physical and sexual, falsification of charges, to them those are 'normal cop stuff', so the idea that they might be punished for them is completely unacceptable to them. With that kind of mindset, it's no wonder they don't see any upsides to body-cams, as they mean they have a possibility to get punished for actions that they consider to be just part of, if not a perk of, the job.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 4:57am

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, sometimes a pig is just a pig. even if it is wearing lipstick.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 5:05am

    I've heard that prostitution was legal in Vegas, is that not true?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 5:32am

      Re:

      It is legal in Nevada but not in every county.
      Also, its only legal at regulated brothels, not standing on the street corner.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prostitution_in_Nevada

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Jim Anderson, 22 Jan 2016 @ 7:03am

      Re: Prostitution Legality In Vegas?

      Prostitution is not legal in Las Vegas. There are several legal brothels in Nevada but not in Vegas. Prostitution was not prosecuted very vigorously because it was good for tourism. Now Vegas is trying to be a more family friendly destination so a different treatment of prostitution is happening. Whore zoning is what I heard a policeman call it. Prostitution is allowed to exist but only where the family oriented tourists won't see it. Prostitution is allowed in poor and politicly non connected areas. This is done in many metropolitan areas in the US and else where.So the policeman is in trouble for ruffing up one of the local tourist attractions.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 8:06am

        Re: Re: Prostitution Legality In Vegas?

        Let's just say the authorities tolerate it. Nevada state law allows only brothels - no 'street walking' anywhere in the state - in counties of less than 50,000 souls, and when that law was passed in the 1970s Clark County (Las Vegas' county) was the only county exceeding that number. This lady must have walked an area not desired or a merchant complained. That does not excuse the excessive force alleged.

        In response to another comment Las Vegas Metro has been trying for years to get enough officers for the growing area, but they've been playing 'catch up'. I've seen statements claiming the need for 200+ officers right now, but the budget won't support them. Last year they adopted a policy of not responding to non-injury accidents, even if the accident blocked the road (they've since revised that policy) because they simply didn't have enough officers. Anybody who's ever driven in Las Vegas away from the tourist areas will likely tell you quite a few drivers are not the best in the world.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Christopher (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 5:30am

    Good job Tim.

    Yellow journalism is alive and well on Techdirt.

    Police unions protect their membership from political vagaries, guarantee a minimum livable wage, and provide protection for workers that are in harm's way every single day. You're too young, and probably too lazy to read about how hard and miserable it was to be a police officer in the 60s, but there were no bulletproof vests, paid sick leave, pensions, or basic benefits that are typically taken for granted by many of us.

    But from your perception, police unions just want to cover up the bad actors in the department. Well, that's mighty unfair from my perspective, but since you're too lazy to actually qualify any of your statements, go have another bag of Doritos instead.

    -C

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 5:51am

      Re: Good job Tim.

      Many situations of police unions defending bad actors have been discussed here on Techdirt. I have no issues with police unions protecting good actors but when they start protecting bad actors they make themselves and the people they represent look like a bunch of thugs.

      Whats does the 60s have to do with anything today?
      You think the unions alone are responsible for police officers having bulletproof vests, paid sick leave, pensions and benefits?

      Before there were LAWS protecting workers the unions were a necessity, now that there are laws protecting workers the role of unions has been greatly diminished. No union ever did anything for me except limit my pay and take money from my paycheck. Pretty sad when your boss says "I'd like to give you a raise for your hard work but its against union rules."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 8:38am

        No all unions are bad. There's always the potential for them to be bad, but the alternative is often worse since non-union jobs tend to pay less on average and have fewer benefits. Union corruption is horrible and must be guarded against, but plenty of unions are still highly beneficial to working families in America. It sucks that yours limits your earning potential.

        My union just fought for and received a increase in raises and a cost of living pay increase for me while my employer wanted to continue to let wages stagnant despite the increases in the cost of living over the last several years.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          tqk (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 2:08pm

          Re:

          My union just fought for and received a increase in raises and a cost of living pay increase for me while my employer wanted to continue to let wages stagnant despite the increases in the cost of living over the last several years.

          It's just a coincidence that now your employer will be letting a few people go in order to afford your wage and benefit increase, and you'll now have to work harder filling the roles they handled previously. Your union dues will now be hiked too as there are fewer working union members.

          It's too bad the shareholders or CEO didn't want to cover the difference, but that's hardly a surprise. They're planning on closing down the plant and shipping it all off to Mexico or China anyway, and this will just accelerate that.

          Good job, grievance committee.

          You should find another industry to work in. This one appears to hate workers.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            tqk (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 3:12pm

            Re: Re:

            It's too bad the shareholders or CEO didn't want to cover the difference, but that's hardly a surprise.

            It's also too bad they were so cheap and didn't want to pay their employees what they thought was a decent wage or there never would've been a reason to bring in a union in the first place. However, it's impossible to convince many employers that workers wouldn't be satisfied and would always demand more even when they're too lazy to earn what they're being given already.

            Chicken, egg. Pot, kettle. I hated being an employee. Consulting wasn't much better, but at least I didn't need to care about office politics, or kiss the boss' shoes for gifting me that precious job. I could at least consider myself a "business partner", avoiding that master/slave relationship.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 6:01am

      Re: Good job Tim.

      Whatever original intent police unions may have had, have long since been nullified by all of the negatives they have resulted in. We have watched the rights that we all were supposed to have slowly eroded away year by year until your "police force" enjoys almost unlimited protection and enjoys the only assumption of innocence that was supposed to be granted to all of us. We are not innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, we are not able to protect ourselves from assault when the person is wearing a uniform. Our word is questioned and nothing happens to cops who beat and even kill those in their custody. We are at best second class citizens in our own communities and the divide between the two gets larger each year. You are obviously against any kind of journalism that dares to report on police abuses, but none of this would be needed if the police actually did their job and kept themselves above suspicion by getting rid of bad cops and making it impossible to have that kind of culture survive. You are wearing rose colored glasses if you think this is a biased article and the real color of your world is shit brown, you just have been surrounded by it for so long, you thought that smell was normal.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 6:25am

      Re: Good job Tim.

      "Police unions protect their membership from political vagaries, guarantee a minimum livable wage, and provide protection for workers that are in harm's way every single day. "

      It's a shame that the rest of us have no such "protections".


      "You're too young, and probably too lazy to read"

      Wow. That is definitely the way to engage in a healthy discussion. btw, do you know Tim personally - otherwise it is simply conjecture.


      "go have another bag of Doritos"

      Is this gorilla marketing for Frito Lay?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 7:38am

      Re: Good job Tim.

      @Christopher
      You've got to be joking, right? Have you not read how the union will back up the piece of shit even when we have clear evidence? I bet you used to be one of those POS cops - so fuck off you POS!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 8:24am

      Re: Good job Tim.

      LMFAO, the way you LEO lash out when we peons call you on your bullshit is truly adorable. Like adolescent children, red face wit their dick in their hand, swearing they don't play with themselves when their mom walks in.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 8:48am

      Re: Good job Tim.

      Considering you seem to post only in the stories about police misconduct one could say a thing or two about your own bias, no?

      Nobody disagrees that unions had and probably still have their roles in making work conditions better. Up to the point the risks cannot be mitigated due to going over the Constitution and citizens rights. And there are plenty of examples of said unions supporting clearly abusive behavior. So even if there are times when these unions are right they've built a reputation for themselves.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 10:49am

      Re: Good job Tim.

      But from your perception, police unions just want to cover up the bad actors in the department.

      If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, well, then it's a fucking duck.

      The perception police have is what they EARNED.

      Don't like it? Well then the first thing to do would be to stop sticking up for the assholes who clearly do their job like the pieces of shit they are.

      Given your penchant for defending police at all costs, based on your previous posts, you illustrate exactly what the problem is with police in general - they cover up for each other even when they are acting improperly.

      So thanks for inadvertently making the point!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 5:38am

    Pay attention to the end result see how much time he really gets for this or if he walks away with just a fine and no jail time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 7:32am

    I wonder how many victims of the POS Richard Scavone there are before something like this finally stops him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    got_runs? (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 9:33am

    Pigs will be pigs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    hmayle (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 9:48am

    "The federal grand jury indictment is just that: a grand jury indictment. It doesn't take much to convince a grand jury to hand down an indictment, but it is rather unusual to see one stick to a law enforcement officer"

    This is due to the unholy relationship between prosecutors and police officers. Especially in a local setting. I'm guessing that maybe because it was a Federal grand jury and the acting prosecutor had no ties to the local police force that these charges even had a chance to stick.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PRMan (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 2:50pm

      Re:

      The whole point of a Grand Jury to begin with was one citizen was bringing a trial against another. There weren't supposed to be professional "prosecutors" in America.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Pronounce (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 11:13am

    This Kind of Thing Happens More Than is Reported

    My son works at the trauma unit at the local hospital, and he was working a youth that happened to be the wrong race, at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and got roughed up by the police and ended up with a skull fracture, broken femur, and all kinds of trauma. The cops were trying to steal the boys cell phone, but my son kept them from getting it, and told them they had to leave and asked them if they didn't have some black youth to shoot somewhere. (He really doesn't like the local police who have a reputation for shooting first and asking questions later.) As far as I can tell the incident went unreported.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Jan 2016 @ 2:45pm

    Bad Cop, No Doughnut.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Techdirt Logo Gear
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.