Alabama Officer Fired Over Abusive Takedown Of Indian National Is Hit With Federal Civil Rights Charges

54de18903b380.imageWe previously discussed the terrible case of Sureshbhai Patel who was seriously injured after former Madison (Alabama) police officer Eric Sloan Parker slammed him face first into the ground during a confrontation. Parker is now charged on the state level and facing a civil lawsuit. Now he has been charged with violating Patel’s civil rights. As we have discussed before, the question is whether such federal charges are necessary or warranted. Obviously, while based on the same conduct as the state charges, the charges are different. On the state level, it is assault while on the federal level it is the denial of federal rights. The Supreme Court has rejected double jeopardy attacks on such back-to-back charges, but these cases still raise the same concerns of multiplication of charges.

Under the indictment, Parker’s actions deprived the victim of his right under the U.S. Constitution to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures, which includes the right to be free from unreasonable force by someone acting under color of law.

The concern is that, even if a defendant is acquitted of the state charges, he faces a trial on the same actions in federal court. This is not to reflect any sympathy for Parker in facing charges. However, this is a recurring concern among civil libertarians over the erosion of double jeopardy protections. There are obviously different charges raised in the prosecutions, but some civil libertarians have questioned the trend of overlapping jurisdictions. At one time, such cases were addressed as state crimes with rare subsequent federal prosecutions, particularly in cases of discrimination. It is now becoming more common – at least in notorious cases like this one with international implications.

Parker, 26, was previously fired so it is not clear if he can afford counsel in this three-front litigation.

The problem is how to distinguish between federal crimes that are sufficiently distinct not to constitute double jeopardy. The Court has adopted a highly permissive approach that has fueled the increased use of parallel federal prosecutions. The foundation for this rule was laid in Blockburger v. United States, 284 U.S. 299 (1932), where the Supreme Court held that “where the same act or transaction constitutes a violation of two distinct statutory provisions, the test to be applied to determine whether there are two offenses or only one, is whether each provision requires proof of an additional fact which the other does not.” The Supreme Court has also emphasized that as separate sovereign powers, the federal government retains the right prosecute for its own crimes. In United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1875), stressed that:

“It is the natural consequence of a citizenship which owes allegiance to two sovereignties, and claims protection from both. The citizen cannot complain, because he has voluntarily submitted himself to such a form of government. He owes allegiance to the two departments, so to speak, and within their respective spheres must pay the penalties which each exacts for disobedience to its laws.”

What do you think of these dual state-federal prosecutions?

Source: ABC News

49 thoughts on “Alabama Officer Fired Over Abusive Takedown Of Indian National Is Hit With Federal Civil Rights Charges”

  1. The Judge in the civil suit, the civil rights action, is going to put the case on hold until the criminal cases are resolved. This could be good for Patel if the perp is convicted of a crime. Because the plaintiff Patel could then assert the doctrine of estoppel by judgment and deny the perp the right to interpose any defense that he did not do any act of which he has been criminally convicted. The plaintiff could get partial summary judgment on the elements of liability and get the jury to decide what amount of damages to impose on the perp. Now the liability of the city would be different and the plaintiff would have to prove some muni liability such as no regulations on use of force imposed on its cops. The perp would be estopped to deny punitive damage liability because the crime of assault is intentional and sometimes reckless with conscious disregard for the rights of plaintiff.

  2. I went on Pacer and obtained a copy of the Amended Complaint filed by Patel against the cop and the City of Madison, Alabama. The Amended Complaint is lame in a few respects. As far as suing the cop goes the allegations set out a claim for relief against the cop. He does not sue for punitives and does not set out the actual damages. He does not mention attorney fees under section 1988. The city is named in the title and there is one sentence saying the cop works for the city but no allegations making a good claim against the city. The city cannot be sued for punitives. But it can be sued jointly with the cop, which it is not expressly, for actuals and for attorney fees. There are no superior officers sued and the Chief is not sued. There is no conspiracy claim under 42 U.S.C. Section 1985 and no co conspirators named.

    If the lawyers for Patel read this blog then please go visit a publication by Martin Schwartz on Section 1983 Litigation which will explain all the problems in the Amended Complaint. Look at: Steve Ryals, Nuts and Bolts of Section 1983 Litigation.

  3. Oh, speaking of Liberal pet projects that make life more difficult, let me share the joy of the CA measure that allowed illegal aliens to get drivers licenses. I think it’s AB 60, but don’t quote me on that.

    There are now huge lines at the DMV, making previous “huge lines” a fond memory. The line was out the door and way down the block. It takes literally hours to get through to anyone on the phone with DMV, too, and the DMV by my husband’s work has a wait time of 3 months to get an appointment. I used to be able to get an appointment within a day or two. Not every satellite office is so hard hit. He could always try taking off a day of work and driving hours to another office where he could get an earlier appointment. I tried calling the DMV, and the automated phone tree told me the wait time was over 2 hours because they had a larger than normal call volume. There was no change in wait time if I requested a call back, which I did. They called me 4 hours later, and of course got my machine as I was out feeding horses. Yeah! I get to spend hours on the phone with the DMV tomorrow!

    It’s like a perfect storm – government employees plus a form of illegal alien enabling.

    I feel rather silly following the law when illegal aliens and Hillary Clinton don’t have to.

  4. Being satirical or whimsical is not being mad. We do have a dog in the dogpack here at the marina who barks into the Dogalogue Machine and he wants to come onto this blog. His name is MadDog. He is sometimes angry but not crazy. BitchinDog is a complainer but not crazy. No dogs in the dogpack here on the marina are crazy. Of course none of them came from Alabama.

  5. Here’s a blurb about a legal fight about the legality of forcing teachers to belong to a union, and contribute to legal campaigns with which they disagree.

    It would be like demanding that Hillary Clinton contribute a sizable donation annually to the Republican Party, against her will. But the Teachers Union does it every single day.

    And they are not the only union to do so. More and more, they behave like the mob. Join us or you won’t be employed. Break a picket line and you might get hurt. Don’t like the job we’re doing? You can’t fire us!

  6. Anytime it becomes almost impossible to fire anyone, in any industry, you’ll have the inevitable problem of “bad seeds” just getting shuffled along. Other than basic unlawful termination protections, I believe in at will employment. We have so many glaring instances of people who should have been fired who instead continue to abuse the public trust.

    And, so true, that this should be a wakeup call to the Teachers Unions if the media are finally getting hot about it. They have a long, well documented history of protecting pedophile teachers. For example, they fought a bill that would have made it easier to fire teachers with credible accusations of sexual abuse. Based upon the summation of their actions, they don’t care about the students; they care about the union.

    Can you imagine if a mom was unable to fire her nanny without a lengthy court battle, once she got a credible allegation that she was sexually abusing her children, because the Nannies’ Union prevented it? Well, welcome to the Teachers Union.

  7. Karen, The LA Times has been very good holding the teachers union in LA and the state accountable for the raping of taxpayers. When liberal papers turn on a liberal bastion like teacher’s unions you know they are REALLY bad.

  8. Mark Berndt. He fed children cookies topped with his semen, and had rumors of sexual misconduct for something like 30 years.

  9. Karen, are you talking about William Vahey?

    He was fired and convicted. That was the end of his story in American schools.There is nothing about a $40K bribe which wouldn’t seem necessary after his conviction. Care to supply some verification?

  10. THIS Is why I oppose making it almost impossible to fire someone, such as tenured teachers and government employees. Fraud caused our veterans to actually die, and yet the last I checked, none of those directly involved were fired. If fraud by a police officer caused someone’s death, I’m pretty sure everyone would rightly be clamoring for his dismissal and criminal charges. The infamous serial pedophile “cookie teacher” here in CA had to be bribed with $40,000 by the school board to keep him from challenging getting fired.

  11. I think Darren summed it up well.

    The officer was wrong, should be charged, and poor Mr Patel should receive compensation. Plus the police department needs to take a hard look at the training of its officers.

    My objection is that this is essentially double jeopardy, in the spirit if not the letter of the law.

    Does anyone know how Patel is doing? Did he recover the use of his legs, poor man?

  12. The article might have created some confusion. The cop was prosecuted in state court for a crime. He was sued in federal court for a civil rights violation which is a civil matter. The third rung is a federal prosecution of a crime of civil rights violation. These different strokes are all for the same folks.

    Someone asked how he could be sued civilly if he were indeed found not guilty of the crime of murder. In a civil suit (not a prosecution) for civil rights violation the violation could be for several levels of civil rights violation beyond the death of the guy. The cop violated his civil rights when he arrested him without cause, when he handcuffed him, when he shot him, when he jailed him, when he charged him with a fake crime. The level of proof in a civil case is not beyond a reasonable doubt like in a criminal case. It is proof by a preponderance of the evidence.

    In the instant case the cop could be acquitted in state court of murder, he could be acquitted in federal court of murder and yet judged to be at fault in a civil proceeding for violation of federal civil rights i.e. the Constitutional right to be free from wrongful arrest, incarceration, assault, battery or murder. Preponderance of the evidence. 42 United States Code Section 1983. Several perps can be sued for conspiracy under Section 1985. Attorney fees can be awarded under Section 1988. The municipality can be included as a defendant. The individual defendants, not the muni, can be hit with punitive damages.

  13. Paul

    Zimmerman should have been charged with manslaughter. He would be in jail right now.

  14. “So what are the elements of why the Justice Department involves itself?

    1) Public Outrage
    2) Rushes to judgment
    3) Demonization of the defendant
    4) Political advantage with involvement
    5) Wide media coverage, especially when international.
    6) Politicians interjecting themselves into the case
    7) The defendant belongs to a group that is out of favor
    8) Nobody is willing to step in and prevent a miscarriage of justice
    9) Conclusions are made before any investigation
    10) The defendant has few resources and can be ruined by the prosecution alone, even if acquitted.

    I prefer to call it Prosecutorial Indiscretion”

    added to the list beyond the Justice Department would be thousands of other similar bodies that enforce State police powers. This list is almost every prosecution in the United States.

    The minority cases are Darren Wilson, Zimmerman, etc.

    I do think the dual state-federal prosecutions is troublesome though. There should be rules when the feds can charge and not standards so it’s more clear.

    The ethics are interesting here, though. Routinely, powerless citizens are crucified on here for stealing things, engaging in violent acts like assaults that hurt others, yet an officer abuses his job and leaves a man partially paralyzed and it’s called a “confrontation”…

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