‘If an officer has both state and federal powers, he should be more…accountable to the Constitution…’
(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) Nearly six years after undercover police assaulted and choked unconscious an innocent male college student, he has appealed his case to the Supreme Court with the help of the Institute for Justice.
James King was 21-year-old student at Grand Valley State University when two agents in a joint federal/state task forced stopped him as he was walking to work in Grand Rapids, Michigan, The Washington Post reported.
Wearing street clothes and baseball hats while leaning against an unmarked black SUV, one of the men asked King to show identification, but he said that he did not have any on him, IJ reported.
The officers, one of them a local police detective and the other an FBI agent, suspected that King was a wanted petty thief, so they pushed him up against their while questioning him.
One of the men grabbed King’s wallet.
Confused and fearing that he was being robbed, since the men hadn’t identified themselves as law enforcement officers, King tried to run from them. They tackled him, and then one of the men choked him until he passed out.
Again fearful as he awoke, King bit one of the men, so they beat him until his face was bruised and his eyes were filled red with blood.
One of the men later admitted that he hit King “as hard as [he] could, as fast as [he] could, and as many times as [he] could.”
People watching the attack called the police, and one woman said she thought King was being murdered.
The officers were later revealed as Detective Todd Allen of Grand Rapids Police Department and special agent Douglas Brownback of the FBI.
Because these officers were part of a federal/state task force, which Richard Nixon’s administration crafted in the 1970s to ease the prosecution of the War on Drugs, King and his lawyers have had difficulty determing how to seek justice for the illegal and violent assault.
IJ said the officers are hiding behind “qualified immunity,” a Supreme Court precedent that makes suing law enforcement officials nearly impossible.
“The Fourth Amendment prevents the government from undertaking unreasonable searches and seizures. Here, at every step of the way, the officers were unreasonable in searching and seizing James, including when they beat him,” IJ Attorney Patrick Jaicomo said. “We filed this lawsuit in 2016. It’s now 2020 and the government still hasn’t even filed an answer addressing all the claims that we’ve raised. Instead, they’ve spent the past four years filing different motions with courts, arguing under technicalities why they shouldn’t be held accountable rather than explaining why what they did actually wasn’t wrong.”
After the officers beat King, they charged him with felonies, including assault of a police officer, assault of a police officer causing a bodily injury, and resisting arrest—all of which resulted from the officer’s failure to identify themselves or otherwise communicate with King.
When the county prosecuted King, he refused a plea deal and the jury acquitted him.
Then King went on the offensive, suing the officers for disregarding his Constitutional rights.
Through their dual federal-state roles and arguments employing complex legal jargon, the officers said that they broke neither Michigan law nor federal law.
“If an officer has both state and federal powers, he should be more—not less—accountable to the Constitution,” said IJ President & General Counsel Scott Bullock.