On the eve of the decision not to prosecute of Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, state prosecutors are considering charges against Michael Brown’s family. While potentially explosive in light of the rejection of civil rights charges, the case is based on what is reported as criminal acts of assault and theft by Brown’s mother Lesley McSpadden and other family members.
The incident stems from who is entitled to cash in on the name of Michael Brown. A “Justice for Mike Brown” stand was set up outside of a restaurant to sell teeshirts and other items. One of the vendors was Pearlie Gordon, 54, the mother-in-law of Michael Brown Sr. (who is divorced from McSpadden).
The police say that a group of about 20-30 suspects “jumped out of vehicles and rushed” Gordon, Tony Petty, and Matthew Cosey. McSpadden, 34, is quoted as saying “You can’t sell this shit.” What reportedly ensued was an intense debate of who had trademark options on the name of the dead teenager. Gordon reportedly states that “unless McSpadden could produce documentation stating that she had a patent on her son’s name she (Gordon) was going to continue to sell her merchandise.” Police say that Desureia Harris, McSpadden’s mother, then began to rip down t-shirts while other family members began “tearing her booth apart.” Gordon allegedly was knocked to the ground and repeatedly struck in the head. Gordon accused McSpadden of running up and punching her while one of McSpadden’s group encouraged her to “get her ass.”
Also accused is McSpadden’s husband, Louis Head, who was previously the subject of calls for prosecution in his encouraging protesters to “Burn this bitch down” after no charges were brought against Wilson.
Petty was also transported to a local hospital for treatment of “injuries sustained during the assault.” Police also found that more than $1500 in merchandise and $400 in cash “was stolen by unknown subjects” during the assault and that they fled before the arrival of the police.
To make matters worse for the Brown family, there is a witness as well as a videotape showing the assault on the vendors, according to police.
That record would seem highly compelling for criminal charges. They have sworn statements from the alleged victim, third-party witnesses and a possible videotape showing a vendor being pinned on the ground. That does not rule out defenses based on claims that the vendors started the fight. However, self-defense would not excuse the alleged taking of merchandize and cash.
In a normal situation, there would have already been arrests and charges in such a case. However, this case seems anything but conventional and prosecutors may be more timid after prior events triggered arson and looting. The delay may be a reflection of that caution, but (absent new evidence) there may be no avoiding arrests in the case since at least two people were sent to the hospital and violence was involved in the alleged crimes.
Here is the police report: Brown Family police report