In overtly totalitarian countries, families of condemned state enemies are often required to pay for the bullets used to execute their loved ones. Two recent federal court rulings indicate that a very similar custom has taken root in proto-Soviet America.
On June 3, 2011, a man wearing a ski mask hurled a crude, improvised stink bomb through an apartment window in Laguna Beach, California. The payload of that infernal device was butyric acid produced through fermentation of milk and cheese. Several people complained about the noxious odor, but nobody was hospitalized. On a garage door of the targeted building, the attacker spray-painted the demand, “Stalk someone else.”
Without any solid leads, and acting on rumors, the Laguna Beach PD dispatched a SWAT team a day later to raid the Rowland Heights, California home of Marilyn Injeyan, a 71-year-old retired schoolteacher. Her son, Vahan, was described as a “person of interest” – not a suspect, mind you -- in the stink bomb attack, which through the dubious miracle of Homeland Security hyperbole had been transformed into a “domestic terrorism” incident.
The first of the intrepid heroes through the door at Injeyan’s home was Laguna PD Sergeant Robert Rahaeuser. Fearing that the 5-foot-3, 125-pound female septuagenarian posed a genuine threat to his safety, the valiant Sgt. Rahaeuser ordered that the terrified and compliant woman be seized and handcuffed. The officer who carried out that order yanked Injeyan’s arms behind her back with sufficient force to tear both of her rotator cuffs. The shock and trauma caused the elderly woman to urinate on herself, and she wasn’t permitted to clean herself up or change her clothes for nearly a half-hour. Vahan Injeyan, who was undergoing cancer treatment at the time, wasn’t injured, nor was he taken into custody.
Neither Injeyan nor her son was ever charged with a crime. Although the original “terrorist” attack drove five families to leave their homes temporarily, and caused substantial property damage, none of the victims suffered any lasting injury. Marilyn Injeyan, on the other hand, had to undergo two expensive surgeries to repair her shoulders.
A few months after being assaulted by police in an entirely unjustified raid, Mrs. Injeyan filed a $290,000 damage claim with the City of Laguna Beach – an impressively modest amount, given the expenses incurred to the victim as a result of grotesque police overkill. After that claim was rejected, Marilyn filed a federal lawsuit. The City responded with a motion for summary judgment on the basis of the spurious and all-sufficient doctrine of “qualified immunity.”
On September 11 of this year, US District Judge Beverly O’Connell validated an act of state terrorism by upholding Laguna Beach’s claim for immunity. O’Connell accepted the assertion that a SWAT raid targeting a “person of interest” in a stink bomb attack was a proportionate use of force, and that the sadistic treatment inflicted on a submissive 71-year-old woman “was objectively reasonable when judged from the perspective of an officer on the scene who was executing a search warrant in connection with a crime of violence.”
A more honest summary of the judge’s finding is this: The standard of “objective reasonableness” regarding the use of force is defined by the officer’s capacity for self-preoccupation and his innate cowardice. Since Robert Rahaeuser is the kind of person who soils himself in terror at the sight of a tiny, unarmed 71-year-old woman, it is therefore “objectively reasonable” to order that she be shackled and treated like a threat to that most precious of all things, “officer safety.”
In fact, according to Judge O’Connell, it’s not necessary that the actions of police in terrorizing or brutalizing innocent people be regarded as “reasonable.” Their “cloak of immunity” remains intact even when they act “maliciously and without probable cause,” she concluded.
Pusillanimity of this kind, although repellent, is commonplace among police officers. It is tirelessly abetted by the tax-engorged unions that represent them, and universally indulged by the municipal cliques that hire them. Judge O’Connell added another layer of vindictive privilege to this familiar ritual by ordering the elderly, impoverished victim of police abuse to pay the legal costs incurred by the government whose agent had assaulted her without legal cause or moral justification.
The claim that police exist to “serve and protect” the public is among the most perversely durable falsehoods in human history. Police cannot be held criminally or civilly liable for failing to protect individual citizens from criminal violence. They also enjoy expansive “qualified immunity” against civil and criminal claims arising from official conduct that results in the injury or death of innocent people. Legal precedents extending back at least six decades recognize that police officers are exempt from a common law “duty to care” for innocent members of the public, unless some documented “special relationship” exists between specific officers and individual citizens.
This perspective is perfectly reasonable once it is understood that the police aren’t a body of civilian peace officers, but rather members of a paramilitary occupation force employed by a municipal corporation. As attorney Joseph Kogel pointed out while defending a similarly constituted organization in federal court, people who carry out such a role aren’t liable for their actions because the duty of care has been “remove[d] … from the battlefield.”
Kogel made that argument before the US District Court for Eastern Virginia in October, 2008, while defending the military contractor CACI International in a lawsuit brought by Iraqi torture victims. CACI was employed by the Pentagon and the CIA to carry out imprisonment and interrogation of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison.
In a lawsuit filed against CACI, former detainee Suhail Najim Abdullah al Shimari, who was seized in his home in November 2003, describes how he was held without charge or justification by CACI for more than four years.
During that time, he was subjected to electric shocks, endured frequent beatings, deprived of food and sleep, threatened with dogs, stripped and kept naked in his cell for extended periods, subjected to extremes of temperatures and sensory deprivation, and forced to watch as CACI contractors – including a spectacularly sadistic specimen named Timothy Dugan – abused other prisoners. On other occasions, Shimari was forced to stand on sharp stones until his feet bled.
CACI, which made tens of millions of dollars by imprisoning and torturing innocent Iraqis, has claimed that they enjoy “absolute immunity” from both criminal and civil liability.
Like the other “public-private partnerships” on which our modern fascist system has come to depend – beginning with the grand progenitor, the Federal Reserve – CACI can claim to be either a private corporation or a government entity, depending on present needs. As a private company, its operatives can’t be prosecuted for violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. As a subcontractor for the Executive Branch in a war zone they can claim that they are not subject to the jurisdiction of Article III courts.
During an October 2008 hearing, Kogel took refuge in tautology, asserting that “it is appropriate to extend the immunity enjoyed by military interrogators to [CACI’s] civilian interrogators because to do the contrary would deprive the government of the ability to delegate functions when it determines it’s appropriate to do so….[I]f contractors are exposed to tort suits, they will be either unwilling to perform those functions and that of course impairs the ability of the government to delegate functions or [the contractors] will perform them only under conditions that may not be in the government’s long-term interest.”
Briefly and more lucidly stated, CACI’s argument is that its employees can’t be held liable for committing the crime of torture, because this would foreclose the possibility of the government hiring more torturers in the future.
In June, the US District Court in Eastern Virginia formally dismissed the lawsuit against CACI. The corporation promptly demanded that its victims pay $15,580 in legal costs. In a legal motion that would be breathtakingly cynical had not such cynicism become commonplace, CACI accused the victims of failing to present their case – and then observed that “the United States, in its considered judgment, apparently views three of the Plaintiffs as sufficiently threatening to the security of the United States that it would not allow them into this country even long enough to sit for a deposition.”
The Regime used a similar argument in 2007 to prevent Maher Arar – a Canadian citizen rendered to Syrian custody to be tortured by Bashar al-Assad’s secret police – from coming to the U.S. to testify. It has used a variation on that argument to justify the continued imprisonment of innocent men at Guantanamo Bay who have been cleared to leave, but are being detained because of concerns that they may become “security risks” on account of the abuse they have endured.
Under the emerging definition of official immunity, a victim becomes a “security risk” merely by protesting the abuse he or she has suffered at the hands of the Regime’s operatives. This is true whether the abuse occurred at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, or the local police station.
Alicia Garafalo, a resident of Saratoga Springs, New York, attempted to file a complaint against an off-duty state trooper who allegedly assaulted her outside a tavern in 2009. Saratoga Springs police asked Garafalo to appear in court to sign a complaint against Trooper Kenneth Ahigian, whose brother Justin is part of the city’s police force. After she filed the complaint, state police rejected her claim – and two Saratoga Springs officers visited Garafalo’s workplace to issue a criminal citation for second-degree harassment and second-degree obstruction of governmental administration.
The abuse suffered by Garafalo, outrageous as it was, could be considered mild compared to the treatment inflicted on Monica Contreras. In August 2011, Contreras and her two-year-old daughter appeared in a Clark County, Nevada family court to respond to a petition for a protective order filed by her estranged husband. After hearing master Patricia Doninger dismissed the petition by Contreras’s husband, a court marshal named Ronald Fox ordered the very attractive young mother to accompany him into a witness room to undergo a drug search.
Disturbed by the prospect of being physically examined by a male stranger, Contreras requested that a female deputy conduct the search. What she didn’t know was that the “drug search” was a ploy by an opportunistic predator of a very common variety. After telling his victim that no female deputy was available, Fox sexually assaulted the terrified young mother by groping her intimate anatomy while making what were later described as “sexually abusive and harassing requests.”
When Fox was done with Contreras, she went back into the court to complain about her treatment. Fox then ordered that his victim be arrested for “making false allegations about a law enforcement officer.” That “offense” isn’t listed in any Nevada statute.
For several minutes, Fox and his gelatinous supervisor, James Kenyon, used the threat of an illegal arrest and the seizure of Contreras’s child in an attempt to extort a recantation of her accusation. When she refused, Kenyon handcuffed the weeping Contreras as her two-year-old daughter pleaded with him not to take her mother away.
“How could you do this to me?” Contreras pleaded as Doninger sat stolidly in the judge’s chair, pointedly ignoring the victim. “How could you watch? How could you watch?”
Contreras was taken to a holding cell where she was forced to undergo drug tests (which were negative). Her daughter was abducted by Child Protective Services and held for several hours before being released to the custody of her father. For several months, Contreras was allowed only to have limited and supervised visits with the hostage at a CPS-run facility.
The formal charges filed against Contreras by her abuser were “providing false information to a police officer” and “disturbing the peace.” They were dismissed in May 2012. By that time, the victim had filed an internal affairs complaint that led to an investigation that resulted in Fox’s termination by the Clark County Court System. Weep not for Ronald Fox: He has filed a legal motion for reinstatement, claiming that his termination violated “mandatory written procedures.”
The video of the August 2011 atrocity in Doninger’s courtroom is an amazing artifact, capturing as it does so many aspects of the compounded cruelty, corruption, and impunity that characterize the regime under which we live. Of particular note is the determined indifference displayed by Doninger as she sits with her back turned to the victim, conspicuously ignoring Contreras while playing with the two-year-old child who is about to be wrested, by force of arms, from her innocent mother.
Doninger is entirely representative of the robe-wearing functionaries who blithely issue no-knock SWAT raids now, and will, in all likelihood, soon be ratifying lethal drone strikes by police agencies. There’s no reason to believe that people of her ilk would scruple at ordering survivors of such summary executions to pay the expenses incurred in murdering their loved ones.
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Dum spiro, pugno!