Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Showtime Syndrome" in Evansville: Online Trash Talk about Cops Triggers SWAT Raid

[W]e are bound by our oaths and by our loyalty to the State and to society to meet force with force, and cunning with cunning… We have a government worth fighting for, and even worth dying for….

Chicago Police Captain Michael J. Shaack, in his overcooked "expose" Anarchy and Anarchists (1889)

“The community absolutely has to have law and order. If that’s removed, all kinds of chaos and violence will result,” insisted Evansville, Indiana Police Captain Andy Chandler in an interview with Pro Libertate. 

For example: Absent the heroic intervention of the State’s oath-bound servants, an innocent senior citizens and her teenage granddaughter might be terrorized in their home by men armed with assault weapons and flash-bang grenades.

 Actually, the armed marauders who attacked the Evansville home of Ira and Louise Milan on June 21 were oath-bound servants of the State. The assault was conducted by the local SWAT team, in the company of an impossibly sycophantic local television reporter named David Shepherd, who had been brought along to chronicle the daring raid.
The purpose of the operation was not to protect the “community” from criminal violence, but to arrest and punish an unidentified individual who had posted what were described as “specific threats” against the police in an online forum.

The assailants employed a “knock and announce” procedure in which the incantation “Police search warrant” was shouted three times before the front door was broken down with a siege engine and two flash-bang grenades were hurled into the home. 

None of this was necessary, but it certainly looked bitchin' on camera.

“The front door was open,” a shaken and most likely disgusted Ira Milan commented later to the Evansville Courier-Press. “It’s not like anyone was in there hiding. To bring a SWAT team seems a little excessive.” 

Acting as the voice of the Evansville PD, television correspondent Shepherd explained that the armored assault team took “extra precautions because of the severity of the threats.” 

It’s impossible to make an objective assessment of the nature and credibility of those threats, since Vanderburgh Superior Court Judge David Kiely sealed both the initial warrant and a second one issued after the SWAT team had wrecked the Milan family’s home. This was done in defiance of the Indiana State open records act, which requires that the results of a search warrant be made public. 

Press accounts claim that “specific threats” were made against police officers and their families by an anonymous poster to the on-line forum. One of the posts declared: “Cops beware! I’m proud of my country but I hate police of any kind. I have explosives … Made in America. Evansville will feel my pain.” Another claimed that the home addresses of Evansville police officers had been leaked to the public.

“It said `EPD leak: Officers’ addresses given out,’ or something along those lines,” explained department spokesman Sgt. Jason Cullum. Although one post reportedly mentioned the Evansville Police Chief, no other officers were named, and no addresses were listed. Although Cullum asserted that a SWAT raid was necessary because “the threats were specific enough, and the potential for danger was there,” his casual description suggests that the investigation wasn’t particularly rigorous – especially in light of the fact that the assault on the Milan home took place roughly a day after the messages were posted. 

The Milans were questioned, some computers and cell phones were seized, but no arrests were made. Shepherd concluded his report by intoning that the continuing investigation “hits close to home for many of these brave officers.”

Those “brave officers,” of course, had just conducted a military raid against a harmless elderly couple and their teenage granddaughter in reaction to nasty things said about the police by a blogger who had apparently piggybacked on the home’s Wi-Fi signal. 

“This is the first SWAT entry we’ve done that involved in serving a warrant addressing a threat against a public security officer,” Captain Chandler – a well-spoken, candid, and personable 24-year veteran who until recently commanded the SWAT team – told Pro Libertate. 

Asked if the department would react with the same zeal in addressing similar online “threats” against a private citizen, Chandler replied: “Absolutely we would use a SWAT team to deal with this kind of threat against anybody. We have taken action to deal with threats and harassment of this kind.” 

“Our population is about 120,000, and the larger urban area is about a quarter of a million,” Chandler observes. “People would be astounded by the number of reports we get of intimidation and threats arising out of domestic violence situations or other conflicts.” 

According to Chandler, the Evansville SWAT team does an average of five call-outs a month. At the risk of making what could be construed as a disastrous policy recommendation, I’m constrained to ask: If a SWAT call-out is justified for every “credible” threat of aggravated violence, shouldn’t the team be deployed every day in defense of the besieged citizens of Evansville? 

By Chandler’s account, the investigation that led to SWAT operatives beating down the open door of an elderly couple’s home was a model of urgent efficiency prompted by an exigent threat to Evansville’s intrepid defenders.

“We got notified by informants on the street about postings on a website that threatened officers,” he recalls. (Those “street” informants were people who read the internet posts and called the department.) “We get a lot of criticism, some of it profane, which is just an exercise of free speech. But then the comments crossed the line by actually starting to call out the police chief, with the poster claiming that he had access to weapons that would penetrate our tactical vests – all officers on our force are required to wear the vests – and that he and his `boys’ were coming for officers and their families.”

“We obtained a number of subpoenas associated with that address,” Chandler continues. After conducting “surveillance and intelligence collection” on the suspect and the neighborhood, the department “found that there had been over a dozen shootings in the area since the beginning of the summer, some of them gang-related.”

All of this information was used to conduct an assessment using a “Threat Matrix.”

“We have a document – a checklist – that we review. We fill in the blanks, and every answer has a score associated with it. Is the suspect a known offender? Was it a violent offense? Did he resist arrest? Is there drug trafficking in the area? The scores are tallied up and the threat is placed in an appropriate range of responses.”

A “Threat Assessment Score” is then compiled, and the appropriate response is chosen from three options. The higher the “Matrix” score, the more militarized the response.

A total of 1-16 points means that the supposed threat is considered “SWAT optional”; 17-24 points means that the SWAT commander should be consulted; if the score is 25 points or higher, SWAT deployment is “mandatory.”

The standardized “Threat Matrix” form lists a number of individual criteria dictating “mandatory” SWAT deployment; for instance, if the subject is believed to possess an automatic, semi-auto, or bolt/lever action rifle, or explosives. In the fashion of a Scrabble game, the use of home “fortifications” – such as burglar bars – is awarded “double point value.” The same is true if the subject has a military or police background, or a record that includes “resisting arrest” or “assault on a police officer” (which are weighted more heavily than crimes of violence against Mundanes, such as homicide, armed robbery, and assault).

The purpose of the “Threat Matrix” is to assess the danger to officer safety – not the potential threat a subject poses to the public at large. As Chandler puts it, “Every SWAT raid involves an element of risk, and we chose the method that would ensure the safety of the officers serving that warrant.” 

A less self-congratulatory assessment might be that the department chose a SWAT team as a way of “sending a message” – a conclusion amply justified by the involvement of an “embedded” reporter and camera crew.  This wasn’t a case of a police department isolating and neutralizing an identifiable threat; it was another example of the notorious -- and frequently lethal -- “Showtime Syndrome" at work.

The role played by the “Threat Matrix” in justifying a military raid on an elderly couple’s home underscores the distant but unmistakable kinship between domestic paramilitary operations and “counter-terrorism” strikes conducted by the military and CIA overseas. The “Matrix” operates in a fashion similar to the formula used to justify “signature strikes” against suspected “militants” in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. 

As human rights activist Marcy Wheeler points out, “signature strikes” are conducted against “patterns, rather than people”: Someone who is “associated” with a “suspected militant” through a cell phone conversation, or mere geographic proximity, can be considered an appropriate target for a drone-fired missile strike. According to the Obama administration, anyone who meets the undemanding “threat” criteria is considered a “militant” by default until he or she is posthumously exonerated.

In comparable fashion, the home of Ira, Louise, and Stephane Milan, was targeted for a military strike on the basis of a “threat assessment” that had nothing to do with them

Asked to address this perceived similarity, Capt. Chandler observed that “The military has a built-in loss factor. Whenever they carry out a mission, lives will be lost, including those of innocent people. Law enforcement cannot do that; `collateral damage’ isn’t acceptable.”

Of course, “collateral damage” isn’t limited to fatalities – as the terrorized elderly couple and teenage girl victimized by the utterly unnecessary SWAT raid on June 21 can testify. Given the indecent eagerness of police departments to acquire military-grade drone technology, future "Threat Matrix" assessments could well result in drone strikes, rather than SWAT raids.

According to a local TV news account, the Evansville PD maintains that the invasion of the Milan home “was well worth it to keep everyone safe.” But even if we were to describe juvenile online comments as a “threat,” it’s nonsense on stilts to claim that “everyone” in Evansville was endangered by them.

According to Sgt. Jason Cullum, the police embody the “community,” and they can be paralyzed with fear by an anonymous, solitary internet Troll. “We’re not going to let these type [sic] of people take over and have us scared in our own homes,” he told the local Fox affiliate. From this perspective, the SWAT team’s home invasion was not a grotesque act of overkill reasonably described as an act of state terrorism, but a pre-emptive strike against forces that threatened the existence of law and order itself.

One element that played a tacit but unmistakable role in the decision to deploy the SWAT team was the recent enactment of Indiana Senate Bill 1, which recognized the innate right of citizens to use lethal force to repel “unlawful entry into their homes by law enforcement officers or persons pretending to be law enforcement officers.” That measure, which was signed into law just weeks ago, was denounced by police unions as a measure announcing “open season on law enforcement.”

It’s quite likely that the purpose of the June 21 attack on the Milan home was intended as a show of force – a demonstration that the police were willing to deploy overwhelming force to assert their continued dominance. This would certainly comport with the paramilitary mindset  described by Gabe Suarez, who spent 12 years as a police officer in Santa Monica: “When I was on [the] SWAT [team] our view [was] that `We will always win....even if we have to burn down your entire house by bombing it....we will win’.”

Dum Spiro, Pugno!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hands-On Accountability for the Police Murder of Stanley Gibson

Stanley Gibson, a disabled Gulf War veteran, was murdered in a Las Vegas parking lot last December 12. He was shot seven times in the back of the head, without provocation, by a stranger wielding an AR-15 rifle. The killer, 34-year-old Jesus Arevalo, remains at large and is easy to find: He’s an officer with the Las Vegas Metro Police. 

Gibson was unarmed. He was not a criminal suspect and posed no threat to anybody. His killing was a clear and unmistakable case of criminal homicide. Yet Arevalo has not been charged with a crime. He is on an extended vacation called “administrative leave,” during which he continues to collect his taxpayer-funded salary and benefits. 

Meanwhile, Gibson’s widow, Rhonda, has been left all but penniless. Her husband was a fully disabled combat veteran of the first Gulf War who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and cancer – the latter affliction most likely a result of prolonged exposure to depleted uranium. Over the past several years, Gibson’s disability benefits were consistently reduced and cut off entirely shortly before he was murdered by Arevalo. 

The day before he was shot, Gibson – whose anti-anxiety medication had been cut off two weeks earlier by the Veterans Administration -- suffered a breakdown. According to Rhonda, “He didn’t know where he was and didn’t know what he was doing.” 

The police were called after Stanley wound up in the front yard screaming at cars and “causing a scene.” Claiming that Stanley had taken a “fighting stance,” the officers arrested him for “resisting arrest” and booked him at the Las Vegas Detention Center. Although they informed Rhonda that Stanley would be placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold, he was released within eight hours.

The following morning, Gibson called 911 twice to ask for medical help. He eventually drove to a nearby hospital, but left without receiving treatment. At about 9:30 that evening he called Rhonda to tell her he was parked outside their apartment complex – but he was nowhere to be seen.
Stanley had actually pulled into the parking lot of a condominium next door.  She wouldn't learn about what happened to her husband until seeing a news report of the shooting -- and recognizing his white Cadillac.

Eyewitnesses recalled that Gibson drove slowly through the lot as if he was lost and confused. At the time, Arevalo and three other officers were at the condo responding to a call from a resident regarding a suspected break-in. Although they had no reason to consider Gibson as a suspect, they surrounded the vehicle and penned it in between several squad cars. Disoriented and frightened, Gibson gunned his engine and spun his wheels—but there was nowhere he could go. 

For about a half hour, the officers tried to get Gibson to leave the car. During that period they should have been able to run his license plate and identify the driver. They should have recognized that they were dealing with a sick and confused man, and contacted a crisis intervention team. They should have gotten in touch with his wife, who lived less than a block away. They should have simply waited for Gibson to calm down. 

The officers did none of those things. Instead, they chose to escalate the encounter by devising a plan to force him from his car: One officer would shoot out a window with a beanbag round, and another would incapacitate him with pepper spray. After the window was shattered, Officer Jesus Arevalo modified the plan by shooting Gibson seven times in the back of head with his AR-15 rifle.

Arevalo, who has a lengthy history of citizen complaints and official reprimands, was given the customary 72 hours to work out his story with the help of a police union attorney. He was then placed on paid vacation. Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie, who supervises the Metro Police, initially claimed that the shooting was justified because Gibson supposedly threatened the officers by using his car as a “battering ram” – a claim that disintegrated after the emergence of a private video documenting that Gibson’s car was stationary when Arevalo murdered him.

 There is some unbearably sinister symmetry in the way Stanley Gibson was murdered by agents of the Government. As a U.S. Army cook in Kuwait, Gibson was assigned to clear away what remained of the tens of thousands of Iraqis slaughtered in the “Highway of Death.”

During the First Gulf War, shortly after Saddam Hussein announced the complete withdrawal of his forces from Kuwait, U.S. and allied forces attacked a convoy headed back into Iraq. 

Following airstrikes that disabled vehicles at the front and rear of the column, a prolonged assault with incendiary weapons and depleted uranium rounds was undertaken. A sixty-mile stretch of highway was left littered with the hulls of about 2,000 vehicles and the charred remnants of tens of thousands of human beings -- helpless, retreating soldiers, as well as civilians who had been caught in the traffic jam. 

Gibson spent several days picking through the reeking rubble and disposing of the dead. In one of the ruined vehicles he found the mortal residue of a mother and child who had been melted together when their car was struck by an incendiary bomb. 

The exposure to depleted uranium rounds quite likely was responsible for the cancer that forced Gibson to undergo a half-dozen operations and left his face partially paralyzed. Immersion in the horrific aftermath of that atrocity irreparably wounded Gibson’s mind and soul. He had no way of knowing that a little more than twenty years later, armed agents of the same Government that had penned in and slaughtered the helpless Iraqis would do exactly the same thing to him in a Las Vegas parking lot. 

Rhonda Gibson blames the VA for the death of her husband. Originally classified as 100 percent disabled, Gibson had seen the VA arbitrarily re-classify him, alter his diagnosis, and change his treatment regimen. Last October 24, during an appointment at the local VA office, Gibson “aggressively confronted” an agency doctor about the capricious cutbacks in his cancer treatment. He was arrested by security officers and eventually pleaded guilty to “assaulting a federal employee” – by raising his voice in frustration over the fact that the government he had served was killing him through malicious neglect. 

The couple’s financial situation worsened with each of the agency’s reductions in benefits. In November 2011, the couple lost their home and moved into an apartment next to the condominium where Gibson was killed. Now that Stanley is gone, Rhonda is both emotionally devastated and financially destitute. 

Righteously furious over this state of affairs, Steven Sanson, retired Marine and president of Veterans in Politics International, seeks to organize a charity fundraiser: He has challenged Arevalo – who is a former competitive amateur fighter -- to a refereed mixed martial arts match, with most of the proceeds going to Gibson’s widow. Sanson hopes to hold the event on 12-12-12 – the anniversary of Stanley Gibson’s murder. 

Arevalo, who was as bold as Hector when drawing a bead on the back of an unarmed man’s head, has no appetite for throwing down with someone who can actually fight back. There is no such thing as “qualified immunity” in the Octagon; Arevalo wouldn’t be able to call for backup, nor would he be able to press charges for “obstruction,” “disorderly conduct,” or “resisting arrest.” The referee wouldn't give Arevalo special advantages, and impose restrictions on his opponent, in the name of "officer safety." If the bout went the distance, the police union wouldn't be able to influence the decision rendered by the judges.

Not surprisingly, Arevalo has made himself scarce.

“There are many reasons why I’m trying to organize this event,” Sanson told Pro Libertate. “First of all, there’s a grieving wife who has been left without income of any kind and who is literally wasting away. Rhonda approves of the idea – in fact, she’d love to get in the ring with Arevalo herself, even though she’s down to less than one hundred pounds.”

“Secondly, I think this would help promote awareness of the desperate need for policy and personnel changes at the Metro Police Department,” Sanson continues. “It would also help focus attention on the problems suffered by many returning veterans, some of whom may appear physically healthy but who have psychological problems and deserve much better treatment than they’re getting. I also want to build public support for revamping the current policies regarding officer-involved shootings. Las Vegas has seen far too many shootings of this kind in recent years, yet the official inquiries always exonerate the shooter, no matter how absurd his story or obvious it is that it was a bad shoot.” 

Until two years ago, officer-involved shootings were investigated through a County Coroner Inquest, a non-adversarial procedure described by former Nevada District Court Judge Don Chairez as “a search for justification of an officer’s actions.” Attorney Adam Lagomarsino refers to the County Coroner Inquest procedure as "a kangaroo court and a dog and pony show." 

 Lagomarsino  filed a lawsuit against the Las Vegas Metro Police on behalf of the family of Lavon Cole – an unarmed man who was gunned down in his bathroom by a uniformed serial killer named Detective Bryan Yant. Cole, who had been targeted for a narcotics sting by the Metro Police, was trying to dispose of roughly an ounce of marijuana – a quantity insufficient to sustain a misdemeanor possession charge in Nevada. 

The raid on Cole’s home was staged for a film crew employed by Langley Productions – the loathsome outfit responsible for the police-porn series “COPS.” Playing to the camera, Yant had brought along his AR-15 rifle, which was unnecessary for an operation targeting a mild-mannered non-violent offender. After bursting into the bathroom, Yant shot Cole in the back while his pregnant girlfriend was pinned to the floor in the next room with a gun to her head.

In addition to a previous shooting under very similar circumstances, Yant had compiled a record of corruption, dishonesty, and criminal misconduct. His version of the Cole shooting -- in which the victim supposedly made a “furtive” movement that left the heroic detective in “fear for my life” – was impossible to reconcile with the forensic evidence. Naturally, he was exonerated by the Coroner’s Inquest.

The inquest procedure was introduced in 1969. Between 1976 and 2010, more than two hundred lethal force incidents were examined by a seven-member jury. Only one of them was ruled "negligent" -- and that decision was overturned on appeal. This isn't a surprising result, given that the inquest procedure was a collegial exercise: The D.A.'s office literally choreographed the questioning with the police department prior to the hearing. 

Attorney Lagomarsino points out that no cross-examination of police officers was permitted during the inquest. "We were allowed to submit written questions, one at a time, to the prosecutor, but we couldn't cross-examine Yant" or even ask follow-up questions, he told Pro Libertate in an August 2010 interview. The prosecutors didn’t even bother to present a summation for the jury.  At the conclusion of the inquest into the Trevon Cole shooting, notes former District Judge Chairez, it appeared that the judge "was almost asking for a directed verdict."

Five days before Stanley Gibson was murdered, the Clark County Commission passed an ordinance to reform the Coroner’s Inquest process by including a representative of the victim’s family and making key evidence available to the public. This prompted a protest by the city’s largest criminal lobby – the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, which instructed its members to stop cooperating with the inquests altogether. On June 21, the police union filed a petition for a writ of prohibition against the revised inquest – the most recent of several legal challenges it has filed to prevent the system from being implemented.

“This process is no longer fair to our officers,” sniveled union spokesperson Chris Collins, whining that the revamped arrangement wasn’t a “fair and level playing field.” Bear in mind that police officers were still immune to cross-examination, and the inquest jury was still prohibited from handing down an indictment. 

The DA’s Office remains disinclined to pursue grand jury investigations of police homicides. Accordingly, the only “accountability” for Metro officers who kill while on the clock is that provided by the department’s “Force Investigation Team.”
Sannon (r.) with Sheriff Gillespie.
Although he is on congenial terms with Sheriff Gillespie and other key officials, Steve Sannon isn’t willing to countenance their self-serving corruption – and he says that he knows more than a few police officers who share his opinions.

“There are law enforcement officers who have expressed concerns to me about bad leadership at Metro,” Sannon told Pro Libertate. “I’ve even had a few of them call me and tell me they’d love to see me in the ring with Arevalo, who’s considered a cocky jerk.” 

Sannon says that sponsors are lining up to promote the event. There is no institutional or legal impediment to the proposed fight. In fact, an active-duty police officer participated in the June 11 Rogue Warrior Cage Fighting Championships at the Cannery Casino, which raised money for the Stars and Stripes Foundation

“There’s no reason why Arevalo, who was a fighter before becoming a cop, couldn’t take part in this event,” Sannon observes. That is to say, there’s no reason apart from cowardice and (what’s much the same thing) a bad conscience. In any case, Sannon isn’t going to relent in his efforts to impose hands-on accountability for the murder of Stanley Gibson by calling out a police officer who is protected by a system permitting him to kill without consequences. 

Dum spiro, pugno!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Judicially Authorized Rape: The Newest Weapon in the Prohibitionist Arsenal

Under Utah state law, “object rape” consists of the involuntary "penetration, however slight, of the genital or anal opening of another person who is 14 years of age or older, by any foreign object, substance, instrument, or device….” This act constitutes a form of aggravated sexual assault for which the penalty is a prison term of no less than ten years, followed by lifetime enrollment in the sex offender registry

As 22-year-old Utah resident Stephan Cook discovered, the crime of object rape – like any other offense against person or property—can be transmuted into a policy option when it’s committed pursuant to a government decree. 

While attending Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, four years ago, Cook and a friend were smoking cigarettes near a parked car when they were accosted by several police officers. Following the standard script, the officers – who, let us not forget, were trained to lie – claimed to smell marijuana and demanded to search the car.

Cook and his friend emptied their pockets and consented to a pat-down search. They permitted the officers to search the interior of the car several times with a drug-sniffing dog. Eventually a glass pipe was found in the trunk. Rather than arresting Cook, who was a passenger in the car, the officers ordered him to drive to a nearby police station, supposedly to save his friend the expense of an impound fee.
Cook (r.) with his attorney, Lindsay Jarvis.

There was neither probable cause nor reasonable suspicion to justify the search the car. By ordering Cook to drive to the station, the police made it clear that they did not believe that he was under the influence of marijuana. 

Furthermore, Cook didn’t own the car, a fact that severs the thinnest thread connecting him to the glass pipe found in the trunk.

Yet the officers persisted in their effort to manufacture an offense. Cook was detained and informed that he would have to undergo a drug test. When the police demanded that he sign a waiver of his rights, Cook – whose parents are police officers -- repeatedly and explicitly demanded access to an attorney.

“I asked for an attorney because I didn’t know if this was right,” Cook recalled in a television interview.  “Once I did that, they said ‘We’re getting a search warrant so we’re going to have your urine by the end of the night.’” A “bodily fluids warrant” was issued “authorizing” the cops to obtain a urine sample. It did not, however, specify that the sample could be taken by force. Lindsay Jarvis, Cook’s attorney, informed Pro Libertate that the warrant was issued by a judicial “commissioner,” rather than a judge. 

Since the police considered Cook sufficiently sober to drive, they clearly weren’t facing exigent circumstances. Even if we make the unwarranted assumption that the police were entitled to take a urine sample, they had the luxury of collecting one at leisure – but this wouldn’t have satisfied whatever prurient interest they had in inflicting unnecessary pain on a teenage male.

Cook’s abductors took him to the Sanpete Valley Hospital, where Nurse Ratched told them “to hold my shoulders and she undoes my pants and wipes me down with iodine, catheterized me and took my urine,” the victim recalls. 

Ms. Jarvis points out that the purpose of this procedure was clearly punitive, not investigative: “Rather than employ a simple blood test, they’re forcibly catheterizing these people.”

This satisfies another element of the statutory definition of object rape: The act was committed with the “intent to cause substantial emotional or bodily pain to the victim.”

After sexually assaulting Cook, the offenders charged the victim with possession of marijuana and resisting arrest. Even before the matter was brought before a judge, Cook was also slapped with immediate disciplinary action by Snow College.

“The commissioner who issued the warrant was also on the college disciplinary board,” Jarvis observed in a phone interview with Pro Libertate. “So his student account was immediately put on hold until he completed a two-month class on alcohol and drug abuse. He wasn’t able to complete his midterms, or register for the following semester. This cost him a lot of money on what amounts to wasted tuition.”

Rather than being prosecuted, two of the officers who sexually assaulted Cook– Chad Huff and Justin Aagard –have been promoted. Huff is now Chief of Police in Fountain Green, Utah, and Aagard has been appointed to the same post in nearby Moroni City. In the interest of civic integrity, the municipal governments of Fountain Green and Moroni City should post a warning informing visitors that their respective police departments are under the direction of violent sex offenders. 

Cook, who was forced to take a plea, has filed an $11 million lawsuit against Sanpete County. This has drawn the predictable shoulder-shrug response from county attorney Peter Stirba. "My client officers certainly did not do anything wrong,” Stirba declares, insisting that “the officers were acting pursuant to a lawful court order requiring catheterization of Mr. Cook.”

Leaving aside the fact that no document or directive can make the act of object rape “lawful,” the warrant to which Stirba refers was issued by a county functionary who had no legal training of any kind – and it did not require catheterization. The painful and degrading procedure was inflicted on Cook for the purpose of punishing him for invoking his rights, and to terrorize his friend into compliance: After witnessing what had been done to Cook, the owner of the vehicle surrendered a urine sample "voluntarily."

The gratuitously vicious nature of this episode is further underscored by the fact that although Cook was booked into jail after being violated, the urine samples were never tested, and no record was made of his visit to the hospital.

“What they did was wrong – and I’m pretty sure they’re doing it to other people,” Cook observes. Indeed, there’s reason to believe that object rape of this variety has become a preferred tactic in the “war on drugs.”

“It was like I had been raped … and all those guards were helping,” testified Haley Owen Hooper of her own “forced catheterization” by Sevier County deputies in December 2004. 

Hooper (known at the time as Haley Owen) was a 20-year-old who stood about 5’1” and weighed about 105 pounds. She was pinned beneath a thugscrum of at least four officers – one of whom later gave a self-serving estimate that he weighed 260 pounds. As she struggled beneath a half-ton of tax-subsidized suet, her pants and underwear were removed so a licensed practical nurse could insert the catheter.

A few seconds before the assault began, Hooper had pleaded for the deputies to draw blood instead of sexually violating her.

“I screamed, `Why can’t you just take my blood?’” Hooper testified at trial. “The guy in the black cowboy hat said, `The judge wants urine. We’re going to take urine.’” 

That was a lie, of course. A magistrate had issued a “body fluids” warrant, but it did not specify a urine sample. Furthermore, the affidavit requesting the warrant was “weak and misleading,” in the words offederal District Judge K.K. McIff. The officer claimed that Hooper, who was arrested following a traffic stop, was “belligerent and uncooperative … fidgety and nervous,” behavior that he described as “consistent with the use of a central nervous system stimulant.” He also claimed that the stop was conducted because it was “known by the officers that Haley [Hooper] didn’t have a drivers [sic] license.”

The trained liar who filed that affidavit carefully avoided the fact that the “traffic stop” was actually carried out by the Central Utah Narcotics Task Force, who thought that the car was be driven by another person. It wasn’t until the vehicle was stopped that the officers realized that Miss Hooper was behind the wheel. She had committed no traffic infractions to justify the stop. Her agitated behavior – which included treating her captors to some pungent epithets – was not evidence of drug use, but the predictable result of being surrounded by more than a half-dozen strangers who pointed guns at her and barraged her with threats and profane, abusive language. 

Judge McIff’s Memorandum Decision recalls that when the officers demanded to search the vehicle, Hooper “challenged the officers’ authority” by refusing to cooperate. They replied that “they knew more about the law than she did and that they could search anyway.” Although nothing incriminating could be found, Hooper’s “contemptuous” attitude simply couldn’t be countenanced – so she was taken to a nearby hospital for summary punishment in the form of sexual humiliation.

The only suitable description of what was done to Hooper is “gang rape” – albeit through the use of an object. Just before that crime was committed, the perpetrators, seeking to preserve the fiction that what they did was legal, placed a phone call to the court clerk to ask if the warrant would apply to both blood and urine. That phone call wouldn’t have been necessary if, as the rapist in the black cowboy hat claimed, the judge had instructed them to collect urine.

The clerk, who allegedly conferred with the judge, supposedly said that the warrant would include the forcible extraction of a urine sample. There is no way to know whether that conversation took place, because no printed or audio record was made of the phone call. 
Rapist enabler: Federal Judge Dee Benson.

In July 2010, federal District Judge Dee Benson dismissed Hooper’s lawsuit against the Task Force on the grounds of “qualified immunity.” This means that as things presently stand, police in Utah are free to commit object rape in order to teach an object lesson to Mundanes who commit the unforgivable offense called “contempt of cop.” Similar conditions prevail elsewhere in the Soyuz

Last September, a federal district court for southern Indiana dismissed a lawsuit filed by Jamie Lockard, who was subjected to a forced catheterization following a traffic stop for supposedly running a stop sign in March 2009. Officer Brian Miller, once again sticking to the preferred script, claimed that he smelled alcohol on Lockard’s breath. A Breathalyzer test returned a BAC of 0.07 – which is under Indiana’s legal limit.

Rather than apologizing for his unwarranted intrusion and bidding Lockard good evening, Miller demanded that Lockard submit to a chemical test. When the motorist refused, Miller abducted (or, as he would say, “arrested”) him, filled out a pre-printed application for a search warrant, and faxed it to the local judge. Since this happened at 12:10 a.m., it’s not unreasonable to believe that the warrant Miller obtained was the product of a less than rigorous judicial deliberation.

After Lockard was taken to Dearborn County Hospital, Miller demanded that he provide a sample. Since he was unable to pee on command, Lockard was charged with “obstruction” – a class D felony -- because “he refused to voluntarily give a urine sample,” according to Miller’s report. Miller and another officer, Michael Lanning, pinned the victim down while a nurse prepared the catheter.

Originally, the nurse planned to use a straight size 16 Foley catheter. After Lockard pointed out that he suffers from an enlarged prostate, she switched to a smaller Coude catheter. This didn’t improve things for the victim: Lockard described the pain he experienced as “just as if somebody would take a burning hot coal and stick it up your penis.”

For several weeks after the incident, Lockard suffered severe burning sensations and other symptoms described by a physician as “consistent with clinical prostatis.” After spending some time in jail, Lockard was forced to take a plea for reckless driving. He was given a 180 day suspended sentence, 180 days’ probation, a $100 fine, and assessed $165.00 in court costs. 

Lockard’s lawsuit was dismissed on the familiar, and incurably specious, grounds of “qualified immunity.” The ruling took note of more than a half-dozen precedents involving forced catheterization, all of which grant studiously ambiguous permission for police to violate people suspected of harboring “evidence” in the bloodstream. Significantly, two of those precedents – Sparks v. Stutler and Levine v. Roebuck – involved forced catheterization of inmates by prison officials. In each of those cases, a district court judge ruled that the procedure was an impermissible violation of the individual – only to be reversed by a federal judge who decreed that members of the State’s punitive caste enjoy “qualified immunity” to commit object rape, at least with a judge’s consent.

The events described in Lockard v. Lawrenceburg – the case offering the most detailed examination of the issue of object rape by police officers – occurred in Indiana. That state recently enacted a measure recognizing the innate right of innocent people to use lethal defensive force against police officers who commit criminal aggression against their personsor property. I’d like to believe that those two developments are related. 

Dum spiro, pugno!