Ten score years ago, defeat the kingly foe
A wondrous dream came into being
Tame the trackless waste, no virgin land left chaste
All shining eyes, but never seeing
Beneath the noble bird
Between the proudest words
Behind the beauty, cracks appear
Once with heads held high
They sang out to the sky
Why do their shadows bow in fear?
Watch the cities rise
Another ship arrives
Earth's melting pot and ever growing
Fantastic dreams come true
Inventing something new
The greatest minds, and never knowing
The guns replace the plow, facades are tarnished now
The principles have been betrayed
The dreams's gone stale, but still, let hope prevail
History's debt won't be repaid
"Beneath, Between, and Behind," from Fly By Night
Houston resident William Lewis wanted to leave the hospital with their newborn daughter, Carla. Two days earlier, his Jacquelin Gray had delivered the baby by c-section. William was intercepted by two off-duty police officers, who told him it was impermissible to leave until the infant had been discharged from the hospital.
Just a few minutes earlier, William had been rebuked for carrying his four-day-old child in the maternity ward's hallways without official permission. It was about 1:30 in the morning on April 12 – four days after Carla had been delivered by C-section. Both parents were tired and wanted to go home. So William reacted with understandable hostility when the hospital locked itself down and he was confronted by a pair of swaggering tax-feeders who accused him of kidnapping his own child.
At some point, one of the parasites in blue -- acting in the best interests of the child, of course – pulled his Taser and felled William. The shock caused him to drop the infant from a distance of roughly five feet (the officer claimed it was two feet, which would only make sense if William were holding the newborn down below his knees). After hitting her head on the floor, the infant started to scream so loudly that Jacqueline feared her baby might be dying.
“My baby hit the concrete floor,” Jacqueline later recalled. “When I went down to pick her up to take her to the neo unit, her scream was so loud and so bad I thought she was dying right there.”
Lewis was arrested and initially charged with kidnapping, despite the fact that he was simply trying to leave the hospital with their own child – and his wife didn't object. That charge was dropped, but he now confronts a charge of child endangerment because the police officer who tazed him caused him to drop the infant.
“The only thing that endangered my child was that police officer,” Jacqueline (at left, holding baby Carla) contends.
Police officials allege that the week prior to Carla's birth, Lewis had made threats against both the mother and the unborn child. While Lewis -- as his attorney, Sadiyah Evangelista, told me in a telephone interview -- does have a checkered background, his wife doesn't consider him to be a threat and doesn't hold him responsible for the injury suffered by their infant daughter.
Lewis is scheduled for a court hearing next week, Evangelista informed me, and he's been “offered a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, as opposed to the felony charge” of child endangerment. I suspect that the local prosecutor will do whatever is necessary to get Lewis to plead to something, if only to protect both the police and the hospital from liability should it be learned that Carla's fall has left the child with a lasting injury.
After all, everybody knows that police simply cannot be held responsible if their illegal and violent actions endanger the lives of innocent children.
As we were forcefully reminded earlier this week, today's paladins of public order come with only one setting: Overkill. This is true whether we're talking about black-clad riot police clubbing unresisting female reporters in Los Angeles, or off-duty police officers who risk the life of a four-day-old girl by shooting 50,000 volts into the body of the father who is carrying her.
A few weeks ago, U.S. District Judge Paul A. Magnuson did his bit to advance the cause of murderous police impunity by dismissing a lawsuit (see here and here -- .pdf) filed against several Florida Sheriff's Deputies by Alex Zivojinovich – who is better known as Alex Lifeson, guitarist for the cerebral power trio Rush.
Alex Lifeson (right) with his son Justin in court
On New Year's Eve 2003, Lifeson's son Justin, well-lubricated by the adult potables on offer at the Naples, Florida Ritz-Carlton, caused a disturbance by leaping on-stage with the band.
It's not clear how big of an ass Justin made of himself or whether he'd calmed down after being told to clear the stage. In any case, hotel security called three sheriff's deputies who arrested Justin and started to hustle him out a fire exit stairway.
Justin's arms were restrained behind him, but his hands weren't cuffed. When, in the interest of personal comfort, the otherwise cooperative young man pulled his arm from the deputies' grasp, he was hit with a Taser blast. This prompted an “altercation” in which 50-year-old Alex – a soft-spoken and mild-mannered individual renowned for an eccentric sense of humor -- suffered a broken nose and six (yes, six) shots from the Taser.
Alex, Justin and their wives were all arrested and charged with various kinds of assault. Alex was initially charged with aggravated battery on a police officer; the specific accusation was that he had thrown a she-deputy down the stairwell and – I'm not making this up – that he had bled on another deputy. Eventually the charges were reduced to one count of resisting arrest without violence -- which wouldn't be a crime in a free society, merely an inconvenience for police and a useful check on abuses of their power.
(A devoted Rush fan has a timeline and archive of stories describing the case here.)
Rock's ruling triumvirate: The heroic Lerxst (left), armed with his exquisite cream-colored Gibson ES-355, poses for a 30th anniversary portrait with bandmates Neal Peart (center) and Geddy Lee.
In his ruling, Judge Magnuson claimed that the deputies' actions “were objectively reasonable,” and that Alex and the other plaintiffs “have not established that any of the defendant deputies violated their constitutional right to be free of excessive force.”
Magnuson also invoked what Judge Alex Kozinski calls the “007 Standard” by ruling that the deputies “are entitled to qualified immunity on all of the excessive force claims.” This would mean that even if the plaintiffs can prove that excessive force was used, the deputies couldn't be held liable.
Lifeson hails from Canada, which – unlike whatever it is we've become – is a relatively free and civilized country. (It's quite an accomplishment, in a sense, that our once-free country has fallen behind our socialist, multi-culturalist neighbor to the north.) He intends to appeal Magnuson's ruling, has the means to do so, and has every right to demand that something be done to inflict exemplary punishment on the thugs who beat him and repeatedly attacked him with a lethal weapon for no legally defensible reason.
“It was extreme police brutality,” recalled eyewitness John Cannivet, a fomer Ritz-Carlton employee who was present for the whole incident. “The whole time all this was going down, I'm thinking, `God, what did these people do? It must have been something really bad.' It just bothered me....They [the deputies] didn't have to use that force. When they shot Justin [with a stun gun], Justin wasn't violent at all. He was walking with the police. All he did was quit walking.”
According to Cannivet's account, after having “words” with a deputy, Justin backed away into a corner. “He kind of put his hands up. He kind of froze, and then they shot him [with the Taser]. If I were to describe what it looked like after he got shot, it looked like a severe seizure. He was just out of it because he was electrocuted for a long time. If you could have seen how bad he was twitching on the ground, and screaming and crying, because it hurt so bad.”
It was the spectacle of his son writhing on the ground during a prolonged, unnecessary – and illegal – Taser assault that brought Alex into the fray. At this point, according to the deputies' version, Alex barged in and threw a female deputy (who, it must be said, had no business being there) down the stairs.
Cannivet's testimony differs dramatically: He recalls that the she-deputy, who had the right leverage, “grabbed him by the throat and he went falling backward.”
To me it seems likely that the she-police, after illegally and improperly assaulting Alex, tumbled down the stairs on top of him. The key issue here is that a reliable, objective eyewitness saw that Alex was not the one who initiated violence. But he was the one who was swarmed and beaten for trying to protect his son – and who was originally threatened with five years in prison for “aggravated assault on a police officer,” his apparent offense being that he served as a human cushion to break her fall after she pushed him down the stairs.
“I was punched in the face so hard it ripped the cartilage from my nose, fracturing the bone and shattering my septum,” Alex later recounted. He was required to undergo “incredibly painful nasal surgery and weeks of recovery....” He received two Taser shocks “while lying face down in a growing pool of my own blood”; this assault “burned bloody holes in my back.” While this was happening, Justin was being Tasered at least four times.
Along with his wife, son, and daughter-in-law, Alex was dragged off to jail, where he spent two days in a dress shirt covered in his own blood. The needless incarceration was particularly rough on the daughter-in-law, who was separated from a two-month-old son. (Given the pervasive perversity of our system, it's a minor miracle she wasn't charged with child endangerment.)
“If some good is to come of this, then let it be that the actions of a tiny minority of aggressive, Taser wielding police officers don’t tarnish the reputation of the vast majority of officers who proudly serve their communities with honor and sacrifice,” Lifeson concludes. “I sincerely believe they deserve our utmost respect, but respect is something that must be earned and not demanded with a closed fist or an electrifying weapon…that’s what I’m thinking."
Alex, I hate to break the news to you, but the majority of American police carry Tasers, and at least a plurality of them are simply lusting and aching for a chance to use them. And the people who beat and electrocuted you are distressingly typical of contemporary American law enforcement.
Six days after Judge Magnusson ruled against Lifeson and his co-plaintiffs, the Naples News reported that Corporal Christopher Knott, one of the fair and spotless deputies who had attacked him, “was fired in January after two internal investigations revealed he was sexually harassing women while on duty.”
On three occasions last year, Cpl. Knott made vile sexual overtures to women while wearing the uniform of Collier County's Finest.
“Come here and sit on my lap – I'll make you feel better,” the 32-year-old sexual predator told one woman he had been seen “checking out” in a grocery store parking lot last July 31. The woman, who was a casual acquaintance of the Knott-head, reported that the deputy grabbed her shorts and told her he wanted “to see your panties.”
A few weeks later Knott told a second woman: “When are you moving in with me? My wife's bags are packed. I love you.”
In November, Knott pulled over a third woman on the pretext that a passenger in her car had been seen throwing something from a window.
“You had just seen me 20 minutes before at the Pavilion [Shopping Center],” the unamused and un-beguiled woman told Deputy Dawg. “You were checking me out. You know I had no passenger.”
Knott was disciplined for “carelessness in duty performance” in 2005, a little more than a year after he and his posse literally beat the snot out of Alex Lifeson.
In the aftermath of Lifeson's New Year's Eve 2003 experience, while he was recuperating from surgery and facing five years in prison for the supposed crime of being beaten by police, County Prosecutor Rich Montecalvo insisted that Deputy Knott and his associates had “spotless” records.
Of course they did. Don't they all?
UPDATE (warning -- naughty word follows)
What is it with Florida police?
Pro Libertate reader Russell Gentile tipped me off to this news video of the arrest of 37-year-old Tampa resident Melissa Langston by Officer Kevin Stabins. Langston had been clocked doing roughly 63 MPH in a 35 MPH zone, for abundantly good reason: She was rushing to the hospital because her father had suffered a heart attack. She tried to explain this to the officer, to no avail.
Stabins, the very soul (if the word applies) of the "new police professionalism," made no effort to find out if Langston's story was true. Since she didn't have time to deal with the tax-devouring revenue farmer, Langston twice attempted to drive away. After the second attempt the heroic deputy dragged the panicking woman from the automobile and slammed her viciously against the hood of her car.
As the woman piteously wept that she wanted to see her dad, the bully in blue snarled: "Good. Now you're not going to see him, 'cause you're going to jail."
Memo to Kevin:
Hey, dude, just 'cause your car comes equipped with a camera doesn't mean you're going to end up on "Cops," so just can the mock-witty banter, 'kay?
"I think [Stabins] understands that he was wrong and could have handled it better," Sheriff David Gee told The Tampa Tribune. "On both sides, really, it could have been done better."
Well, no it couldn't have, because Langston did nothing wrong: She violated a traffic ordinance, thereby committing a malum prohibitum, but did no injury to property or persons. How do we know she did nothing wrong? Simple: The speeding charge against her was dropped. Therefore she did nothing wrong, and thus could not have "done better." QED.
Stabins, on the other hand, committed assault and battery on an innocent woman and did so with sadistic glee.
Deputy Stabins was suspended for five days. He really should have his ass kicked.
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