The law moves in mysterious ways. Especially in Alabama, where a police chief who questioned his officers’ court testimony is the only person convicted of a crime in a police incident that left a man seriously injured.
In February of 2015, Madison police officer Eric Parker, who was responding to a report of a “suspicious person,” injured an unarmed Indian man, 57-year-old Sureshbahi Patel, while Patel was walking on the sidewalk outside his son’s home.
Patel, who had moved to the U.S. “days earlier” and does not understand English, didn’t obey Parker’s orders and was thrown to the ground. He suffered spinal injuries and, after surgery, is now partially paralyzed.
Parker was arrested on misdemeanor assault charges. Federal prosecutors later added more serious civil rights violations.
In two federal trials prosecutors alleged the officer knew taking the small, older man down with a “leg sweep” and “face-first slam” would cause injury, but Parker argued he merely lost his balance and did not mean to harm Patel.
The incident was captured on police video. I will let you decide if it looks like a man losing his balance or an officer smashing someone’s face in the grass.
After two mistrials, U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala said Parker would not face trial again.
Recently, the state of Alabama dropped criminal charges. “After a review of the federal trial testimony, it does not appear that there would be sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, we have a duty to move to dismiss the charge,” prosecutors said.
Curiously, the only person fined in the incident is Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey, who tried to fire Parker after the incident.
Judge Haikala found Muncey guilty of contempt of court for asking officers about testimony he felt was untruthful during Parker’s federal trials.
Haikala had ordered witnesses to not discuss the case, but Muncey demanded his officers submit reports summarizing their testimony after several officers testified the stop and takedown of Patel were consistent with department policy.
Muncey said he questioned his officers because, while giving sworn testimony, they “seemed to have no problem with a sidewalk takedown [Muncey] thought violated both policy and state law,” writes AL.com.
Police officers told Haikala they felt threatened by their chief’s questions and Parker’s attorneys argued Muncey was trying to intimidate witnesses.
The judge eventually banned Muncey from the courtroom during Parker’s trial.
AL.com says “transcripts show the acrobatic efforts of the judge to keep the testimony under wraps, as she barred the press, barred Chief Muncey … and even [Muncey’s attorney] from listening to the officer’s accusations.”
Muncey was fined $2,500 for contempt and was place on paid administrative leave in April. In a TV interview, he said he is selling personal items to pay “tens of thousands” of dollars to appeal the conviction.
And what about Parker? He’s been on paid leave since February 2015.
Patel? He can no longer walk around his son’s home without assistance. He’s now free to bring a civil suit again Parker and Madison police for his injuries.
The taxpayers? They know the “blue wall of silence” gets expensive.