8/22/2003 Newsletter

Contents:

  • Rickey Jones Case: City Attorney's Office Caught Doctoring Tape
  • CRA Board Brainwashing
  • St. Paul Know Your Rights Training

RICKEY JONES HEARING: Some Interesting "Facts" Come Out in Court
The Rickey Jones case was back in court on August 15th for an evidentiary hearing on whether the videotape made by Mr. Jones was doctored by the city attorney's office and/or police to make it more to their liking. Right now, the judge is holding four different versions of the videotape--the supposed original and three copies. We viewed the tapes and, interestingly, we noticed that the editing is slightly different on each of the tapes. A preliminary report from a video expert stated that in the version he was provided, it was his "strong opinion" that there had been a crude attempt at editing the tape in at least two places.

During the August 15th hearing, the judge heard testimony from attorney Jill Clark on what she saw when she viewed the videotape in the city attorney's office and what was missing when she finally got a copy of the tape from that office a month later. She testified about sending her "copy" of the tape to an expert (see above) and that a Mr. Peterson, a former Minneapolis cop and now investigator with the city attorney's office, called her expert in an attempt to find out what that expert was going to say.

Testimony was also presented by Lynne Fundingsland, a manager at the city attorney's office, and it was interesting to say the least. She testified that they city attorney's office has no procedures in place for safeguarding this kind of evidence and that just about anyone can walk in and help themselves to it. Nice try at getting the heat off her office for tampering with the tape but it begs the question: Why aren't there safeguards in place? Do they honestly think anyone will buy that nonsense or that it is a good enough excuse for what happened to the tape while it was in their possession? Back during the July 16-17 hearing, assistant city attorney Lois Conroy stated her office had a chain of custody and could vouch for the tape the entire time they've had it. Now, they claim they have no procedure in place and no way to know who had the tape at any given time. Hmmm??? Sounds like someone is being less that truthful.

Things got dramatic just before the lunch break, when Conroy asked the judge to throw out the defense motion to dismiss charges against Rickey Jones (which was the reason for the hearing). She argued that Rickey's attorneys had not proven that the videotape would be exculpatory (proof of Rickey's innocence), that there were other ways to provide the evidence (witnesses) and that Rickey's lawyers did not prove bad faith on the part of the state. The judge shot her down, stating that if there were a group of Black witnesses saying one thing and a group of cops saying another, the videotape would be the tiebreaker. He ruled that Rickey's attorneys had made their case and that the hearing would continue.

The hearing ended with Judge Philip Bush ordering that the tapes be examined by an expert, which is what we've wanted all along. Judge Bush repeated that if it can be proven that the videotape was tampered with, there would be serious consequences. After all the monkeyshines we've seen by Hennepin County judges, it is refreshing to find a judge who takes his job seriously and is willing to actually see justice done.

There will be a follow up hearing on September 4th at 9:00 a.m. in Judge Bush's courtroom (room 759). That hearing should be even more juicy. Make your plans now to join us in court.
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Below is what the Star Tribune wrote about the hearing. (Too bad this important story was buried on page B3, while a gossipy puff piece about a cop giving councilmember Natalie Johnson Lee a traffic ticket was splashed across the front page of the Metro section. Says something about the Strib's priorities...)

Judge reviews allegation of evidence tampering
David Chanen, Star Tribune
Published August 16, 2003

In a Hennepin County District Court hearing Friday, an attorney reiterated her allegations that a videotape was tampered with because it showed police brutality against her client.

Jill Clark is representing Rickey Jones, who was charged with a misdemeanor after officers broke up a party in November. She testified that she asked to review the videotape to prepare for trial. In May, she said, she viewed a copy of the original videotape that Jones shot at the party.

Two scenes stood out, she said. A clear image of an officer she later identified as Kevin Lazarchic was moving his arm toward Jones, who held the camera, she said. The camera dropped to the ground, but landed on its side and continued to film what she said appeared to be police officers in leather jackets "whaling" on someone she believes to be Jones.

Clark asked the city attorney's office to give her a copy of the tape, which she received about two weeks later. But when she looked at the tape, she said, the two scenes had been edited out.

During Friday's hearing, Assistant City Attorney Lois Conroy showed the original and copied versions of the tape, and neither scene Clark described was there. Her office denied that any of the tapes had been tampered with.

Long testimony

On Friday, Judge Phillip Bush listened to nearly four hours of witness testimony about issues regarding who handled the videotapes, if there was any tampering and if the court should appoint an expert to examine the tapes.

Clark's request to review the original tape had been denied in two previous District Court hearings, so she took the case to the Court of Appeals, which ruled in June that she could present her evidence in District Court.

Friday's hearing stems from the arrest of Jones, 44, at a party in November at the Marquette Place Apartments. Friends asked him to videotape the party as a present for the person who was celebrating a birthday.

A police report said a large crowd was smoking marijuana in a party room. They were getting out of control, the report said.

It continues: An off-duty officer asked for more officers to help, but the crowd continued to refuse to leave after they arrived. Jones refused to leave after repeated commands and was acting to incite the crowd. He was arrested after a struggle with officers.

Clark said she wrote a letter to Conroy asking that Jones' case be dismissed after seeing what she alleged was excessive force against Jones on the tape.

When Clark viewed the copy of the original tape, she said, a paralegal sitting with her was shocked about what he saw. She said she believed the tape was a "home run" in Jones' defense. While she said she couldn't see Jones anywhere in the video, she had no doubt it is he being hit by police.

Hours after seeing the video, Clark said, she called several people, including an attorney she had worked with on police brutality cases. She also called the Department of Justice in Chicago and filed an affidavit in Hennepin County District Court about what she saw in the video.

Clark also claimed that no officer can be heard on the tape asking Jones to leave the party, but that several people at the party could be heard telling Jones to videotape officers who were using Mace on people.

Expert consulted

Clark sent the copy of the tape she received from the city attorney's office to a video expert in Toledo. His preliminary report said that he had a strong opinion that there had been at least a crude attempt to edit content, but that he needed to see the original tape.

During cross-examination of Clark, Assistant City Attorney Christopher Dixon asked when she wrote notes about what she saw on the tape. Clark said that it wasn't during the viewing, but that her affidavit was written on her computer an hour later.

After Clark's attorney, Charles Hawkins, presented his case, Bush denied Conroy's request to dismiss the motions of the hearing because Hawkins hadn't reached the burden of proof.

The city only had time to call one of least seven witnesses it plans to have testify. C. Lynne Fundingsland, who had been a managing attorney for the city attorney's office, talked about Clark's unprofessional manner. She said she didn't know of anybody in her office who would have touched any of the videotapes connected to Jones' case.

She watched the original and copied versions during the hearing and said she didn't see either of the scenes of alleged brutality described by Clark. She couldn't tell Hawkins who in her office would have had an opportunity to handle the tapes. The hearing will resume Sept. 4.

"I can't remember when anybody challenged our office with tampering with evidence," Fundingsland said.

David Chanen is at dchanen@startribune.com.


CRA BOARD BRAINWASHING: Latest Move by City Council to Finish Off the CRA
Now that the old Civilian Review Authority has been completely absorbed under the do-nothing Civil Rights Department and procedures to bring even a small measure of justice for people who have been wronged by police have been gutted, you would think that the City Council would consider the wipeout of the CRA a done deal and move on.

Not so. In one last move to ensure total control of the outcome of complaints, the City Council will be voting to require CRA board members to undergo brainwashing training with the Minneapolis Police Department. A recommendation to that effect, spearheaded by Barb "Cops Do No Wrong" Johnson, was passed out of the Health & Human Services Committee and will be taken up by the full council at its next meeting.

This was a serious problem with the old CRA. This training forged unhealthy relationships between the board and police department that prevented board members from being critical of police or even objective in their work. During the CRA redesign process, we addressed this issue by recommending that a nationally recognized civil rights training organization provide orientation for new board members but, as you may recall, all of our recommendations were summarily shot down by the City Council. At the very least, if CRA board members are going to be required to take mandatory MPD training, they should also have mandatory training from the community about what it is like to be on the receiving end of a night stick.

There is still time to put the kibosh on this plan, since the City Council doesn't meet again until September 12th. Please give your city council member a call or drop them an email explaining why this isn't such a great idea. Contact info for your council member is at http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/council/ and if you aren't sure who your council member is, this site can help you with that.


ST. PAUL KNOWS THEIR RIGHTS--How About You?
Thanks to all who attended the Know Your Rights training jointly presented by CUAPB and the National Lawyers Guild--MN Chapter. It's great to know that a whole new crop of folks will be able to exercise their rights and be safer when encountering police. Hats off to the great lawyers with NLG for making this training available!

If you'd like your neighborhood, church or other group to have this training, please call our hotline at 612-874-STOP or reply to this email and we'll get you set up.


Communities United Against Police Brutality
2104 Stevens Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)


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