Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Columbia's system of injustice rears its ugly head

Editorial by Paul Blake
Laws and Constitutional amendments don't seem to matter at all times in the Columbia, S.C. justice system. It only takes sifting through a few weekend police reports to see that sometimes police don't feel the need to use probable cause.

[caption id="attachment_1278" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="According to court documents Allen Keith McAlister Jr. disputed several charges placed on his food and beverage tab at Red Hot Tomatoes and it ultimately landed him a night in the slammer"][/caption]

According to a federal lawsuit, on the night of October 16, 2009, Officer John Passmore and two other officers arrested the wrong man: Myrtle Beach attorney Jonathan McCoy.  McCoy was arrested outside Sharkys and in return filed a lawsuit on January, 19 against three officers involved.

Video surveillance of the incident  backs up McCoy's allegations that the officers exaggerated the incident and made misleading remarks on the police report. The charges include resisting arrest and interfering with a police officer.  Video from the scene contradicts their own police report and shows officers getting physical with McCoy.

[caption id="attachment_1280" align="aligncenter" width="286" caption="Video survaillence shows Office Passmore shoving Myrtle Beach Attorney Johnathan McCoy"][/caption]

This is not the first time Officer Passmore, in particular, has used poor judgment. Passmore is shown in the video initiating both arrests. On August 20, 2003, I personally had a run-in with Passmore and several of Columbia's finest in Five Points.  According to that police report, I was arrested because "...Reporting officer identified the subject in the city fountain splashing."

No joke.

"Allegedly" cooling off in the fountain on that August evening didn't bother

them. They were upset that I was exercising my Fifth Amendment rights when they approached me: I didn't explain why I walking home wet a few blocks away from the fountain on Harden Street. It was an officer-initiated incident and cops don't like it when you don't answer questions. Exercise fundamental rights the way McCoy did on October 16, 2009 and you could get punished.

Fortunately, my cellmate didn't kill himself and I was only lightly scarred by an inmate's offer that I could masturbate in front of him if I wanted to.  In a bizarre twist, he claimed to be the stepbrother of the mayor of the City Of Charleston and said he was arrested in a shoplifting attempt to score some money for cocaine. Not sure if this is true; that's just what he said.

Considering some of the other alternatives, I was actually lucky to have that fat bastard take a dump next to my cot pillow. An errant turd and an offer of mutual masturbation is something I will get over. That's not much worse than hanging out at a downtown bus stop for a few hours. But, McCoy wasn't so lucky. His cellmate committed suicide in front of him.

When I fought what I believed to be a bogus disorderly conduct charge in court, shady things began to happen. The judge initially denied my right to an attorney. After name dropping an attorney and firmly demanding a recess, I returned with representation 15 minutes later.

Immediately, the judge changed his tune and declared a mistrial for "procedural error."  After the mistrial, Passmore reinstated the charges. During the initial trial Passmore made contradictory statements (as he has in the McCoy case), so I made a formal request for the trial transcript.

This is where the judge, officer and City of Columbia should be ashamed of themselves. The City left me a voicemail stating, "The transcript is inaudible" and that "there was something wrong with the tape." Had the judge been embarrassed about his behavior in denying the request for an attorney days earlier?  Was Passmore worried about the statements he made under oath?  What if this was a murder case and not someone enjoying a fountain in the summer?

McCoy's federal lawsuit against the officers involved describes similar cover up tactics. Page five of the lengthy suit alleges that the incident, "should have been recorded by the dashboard camera video equipment located inside the Defendants' patrol vehicle pursuant to policies and procedures of the City of Columbia Police Department. However, Defendants now claim that no video recording of this incident exists."

So, Columbia City Paper would like to help judges, attorneys, and police with a "fundamental freedoms" refresher course.  We are offering free pocket constitutions at our offices on North Main Street with proper identification showing that you are part of Columbia's justice system.

The above column is just my opinion, based on what I have seen and experienced. A person's opinion, thankfully, is still a protected liberty. But, in Columbia, it'll probably just land me in court.

[caption id="attachment_1281" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="This little criminal is enjoying a chlorine treated public fountain on a summer day"][/caption]

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