2/22/2003 Newsletter


  • Court Support for Carlos Lopez
  • Lawsuit on Pepper Spray Torture of Activists
  • Courts Give Cops a "Do Over" in Warrant Mistakes

Carlos Lopez, a young Latino, was driving down the street with his friends when an aggressive motorcyclist pulled up to his right and then passed him and cut him off, endangering them both. At the next traffic light, Carlos pulled alongside the motorcyclist and calmly told him that what he did was dangerous and could have caused an accident. Carlos then moved on. The motorcyclist, however, spotted a cop car nearby and summoned the cops to go after Carlos. His car was pulled over a short distance from there.

As soon as Carlos rolled down his window, the cop was belligerent. He became more so after Carlos asked him why he was stopped. He yanked Carlos out of the car by his hair and and punched him in the face. A passenger from the car got out and asked the police officer to stop. Another cop grabbed him and punched him in the face. In the meanwhile, Carlos was repeatedly punched and kicked. Both men were handcuffed and placed in the police car. But that was not the end of the abuse. One of the cops got into the front seat of the car, opened the small window in the partition between the front and back seats, and sprayed pepper spray right in the faces of both handcuffed men.

The men were threatened when they asked for treatment for the pepper spray, despite the Minneapolis Police Department policy requiring immediate treament for pepper spray exposure. Instead, they were taken to jail. Once there, they continued to be denied medical care. They were finally released many hours later, still with no medical care.

Carlos is being charged with wreckless driving, violating the open can law (for some old crumpled up beer cans that were under the seat of the car!) and resisting arrest. However, his real "crime" appears to be that he is a Latino youth who had the audacity to challenge a white motorcyclist.

For those who attended the public hearings on Civilian Review Authority redesign, you will remember Carlos as the young man who was introduced to the city council by Pablo Tapia. Carlos raised his shirt and showed the bruises and marks on his ribs and back received during this encounter with the cops.


Carlos Lopez
February 25th at 9:00 a.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
Check with the court info desk for the courtroom.

Join us in standing with Carlos. You will find us in the courtroom with our blue clipboards.

An interesting article about a lawsuit related to the use of pepper spray on political activists:

Bari/Cherney Legal Team Takes on Humboldt Pepper Spray Torture Suit

The brilliant Judi Bari/Darryl Cherney legal team which won a record $4.4 million jury verdict against the FBI and Oakland Police has taken on a new case. It's the federal civil rights suit brought by nine non-violent Headwaters Forest protesters who had pepper spray soaked Q-tips put into their eyes by Humboldt County sheriff's deputies in 1997.

You may remember the shocking police videos that drew international outrage and condemnation when they were broadcast by network TV news programs. Several major newspaper editorials and Amnesty International branded it torture.

The forest activists sued in federal court for violation of their 4th Amendment rights by excessive force (grossly excessive!). There was a 4-4 hung jury in their 1998 San Francisco federal court trial. But instead of granting a new trial, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker threw the case out, ruling that no reasonable juror could find that excessive force was used, even though half of the jurors had decided exactly that.

The activists appealed, and the 9th Circuit delivered a strong decision overturning Walker's ruling and granting a new trial.

Defendants then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which announced in December 2002 that it would not overturn the appeal decision.

The new jury trial is set for May 12, 2003 in federal court in Eureka, California.

The legal team members are attorneys Dennis Cunningham, J. Tony Serra, Bill Simpich, Bob Bloom, John Tanghe and Brendan Cummings, plus paralegal Alicia Littletree. Cummings has been on the pepper spray case from the beginning, and now joins the newly formed team.

For more information about the case see www.nopepperspray.org


The Utah Court of Appeals created a quick fix Thursday for police who seize evidence illegally by failing to knock before they execute a search warrant. In a decision that arms prosecutors in their child pornography case against a former Utah State University student, the appeals court held police can try again via a second search warrant.

Prosecutors must show information gained from the illegal entry did not affect officers' decision to seek a second warrant or a judge's decision to grant it.

The ruling came in the case of Tyler Zesiger, charged with 10 counts of sexual exploitation of minors for allegedly running a Web site out of his dormitory room that allowed access to child porn. Police say they were led to Zesiger through an unrelated investigation, but found thousands of lewd photos of children as young as 3 years old on Zesiger's computer hard drive in Snow Hall.

After police knocked and announced themselves outside Zesiger's room, a roommate led officers through a common area and into Zesiger's bedroom, where police entered without knocking.

Zesiger's computer was seized, but 1st District Judge Clint S. Judkins threw out the evidence as illegally obtained. Police then agreed to return the computer, but also obtained another search warrant.

Immediately after officers returned the computer to Zesiger, they executed the second search warrant and re-seized the computer. Judkins once again suppressed the evidence, and the state appealed his ruling.

Attorney Tara Isaacson argued on appeal that Judkins' ruling should be upheld. "This holding basically means that anytime a trial court decides the 'knock and announce' rules have been violated, the state can get a do-over of the execution of the search warrant," she said. "How can you simply say every single time that there is a constitutional violation in a search like this the government gets a do-over?"

Isaacson said her client is adamant he did not intentionally possess child pornography.

Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Gray lauded Thursday's opinion, saying it would have been unfair to punish police by putting them in a worse position than they had been in. Police were able to obtain the second search warrant based only on the information they had before the first search. He added the officers had executed the warrant in good faith.

"To penalize police and put them in a worse position than they had been in would be an unwarranted punishment on society and our interest in protecting society from criminals," he said. "We feel the court properly balanced the defendant's rights with the public interest."

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

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