8 Mar
2015

Austin Police Department’s Civil Rights Violation Costs $1 Million

By: Jermaine Hopkins & Millie Thompson


Carlos Chacon sued the City of Austin and Austin Police Department Officers Eric Copeland and Russell Rose for their use of excessive force against him. His attorney, Broadus Spivey, filed the case in Federal Court, pursuant to 42 U.S. Code § 1983 – Civil action for deprivation of rights. On Thursday evening, March 5, 2015, a jury of 12 decided the case in Chacon’s favor. Chacon was awarded $1,000,000.00 in damages. We discuss the case, the legal process, important details of the trial, and how APD’s brass inconsistently treats dishonesty by police officers.

Facts of the Case:

Chacon sued based on damages sustained at the hands of APD Officers Rose and Copeland. Chacon called 9-1-1 as a victim of a crime, informing the 9-1-1 operator that he paid for a massage but the woman offered sex, and when Chacon went to leave, a man began kicking the motel room door, yelling at him. After he made the first 9-1-1 call, the same man threatened to kill him and reached into his shorts as if grabbing a gun. Chacon entered his silver BMW, began driving around, and again called 9-1-1 to report the threat.

En route to the motel, the 9-1-1 dispatcher twice explained to the responding APD officers that the suspect was a ‘black male’ in a white shirt, black hat and black shorts, with a gun, and that the complainant (victim) – Chacon – was driving his silver BMW. There was no record of any other 9-1-1 calls being placed regarding this incident, other than Chacon’s two.

When the officers arrived at the motel, Officer Rose inexplicably asked an African American male matching the description of the suspect if he had called about a gun. The male immediately replied in the negative, but instead said that there was a drunk guy driving around in a silver BMW. The African American male claimed that he himself had called 9-1-1, about the drunk guy.

Chacon approached, driving his vehicle, and Officer Rose immediately drew his gun and pointed it at Chacon – the victim who had called 9-1-1. Rose didn’t identify himself as a police officer. Rose ordered Chacon to show his hands, and Chacon responded: “I don’t have a gun, he’s the one.” Officer Copeland joined Rose and then drew his gun, pointing it at Chacon. When the officers yanked Chacon from the vehicle, Chacon tried to again calmly explain that he was not the one with the gun. Rose and Copeland wrestled Chacon to the ground, giving conflicting commands, and Copeland punched him in the face twice, causing a cut above Chacon’s eye. Then, Officer Rose tased Chacon. Chacon was arrested for resisting arrest. That resisting arrest case was dismissed.

You can find the dash-cam video/audio here.

Procedural History of the Federal Civil Rights Case:

Officers Rose and Copeland tried to have the case tossed on qualified immunity grounds, arguing that they were immune from suit because they were acting properly in their official capacity as police officers. On May 21, 2013, Federal District Judge Sparks issued a ruling denying the City of Austin’s Motion for Summary Judgment in Chacon’s lawsuit. In his ruling, Judge Sparks pointed out Rose’s “obvious post-hoc explanation for his behavior, and is completely discredited by his actions as captured by his own dashboard camera… The Court therefore disregards Officer Rose’s explanation, and instead defers to the video evidence, which clearly contradicts his affidavit’s claim.” Rose, a white officer, to-date has not been terminated or disciplined for dishonesty.

On March 2 and 3, 2015, Chief Acevedo was provided with information regarding the dishonest and rehearsed testimony given under oath by Rose, Copeland, and Smith. To date, Chief Acevedo has not responded to that information.

Both the district court and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to dismiss Chacon’s case against the two officers. In the officers’ interlocutory appeal (meaning that they didn’t have to wait for a jury to hear the case before they could appeal on the issue of immunity from suit), the Fifth Circuit had to decide whether there was a factual dispute regarding whether the police violated an actual constitutional right, considering 1) the severity of the crime at issue, 2) whether Chacon posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and 3) whether Chacon actively resisted arrested or attempted to flee.

The Fifth Circuit reasoned that the video of the assault did not entirely confirm the officers’ version of events, nor did it entirely refute Chacon’s version. Notably, Chacon was given contradictory commands during the assault, including to “not move,” but “get on the ground,” but “stop moving,” but “turn over.”

The Fifth Circuit concluded that there was a fact issue that a jury must decide: “Even if some action by Chacon demonstrated resistance, the fact question found by the district court remains: whether, even considering his possible resistance, shoving Chacon to the ground while he attempted to explain himself, punching him in the head while he was on the ground, or shooting him with a Taser, constituted excessive force. Police are entitled only to measured and ascending responses to the actions of a suspect, calibrated to physical and verbal resistance shown by that suspect.”

And, so, the case against Officers Rose and Copeland proceeded to the jury.

The Trial – The Jury Had to Decide Who Was Credible:

The dash-cam video was played numerous times and dissected in the courtroom. Despite the efforts of the Assistant City Attorney to discredit him, Carlos Chacon came across as a very credible witness as he described the events taking place on that traumatic night and how those experiences have adversely impacted his life. He informed the jury that he reached out to Chief Acevedo, who did not respond to his letter. He also denied consuming any alcoholic beverages that painful evening.

Rose testified that he did not hear the information provided by the dispatcher, while the dash-cam audio clearly captured the dispatcher twice describing the suspect and victim.

Copeland testified that he detected the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from Chacon, but Chacon was never charged with Public Intoxication or Driving While Intoxicated. Additionally, Chacon’s hospital records failed to confirm Copeland’s alcohol allegation, which was also refuted by Rose’s prior testimony. Nevertheless, according to his police report, Rose claimed to suspect that Chacon was under the influence of alcohol/drugs.

Rose and Copeland’s supervisor, Sgt. Robert Smith, also testified that he detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from Chacon, but he was never as close to Chacon as Rose, nor was he able to explain why the medical personnel at the emergency room did not report any signs of intoxication in Chacon’s medical records. However, Smith stated that it did not mean anything to him. Chacon’s attorney Broadus Spivey asked Smith about why Chacon was not charged with Driving While Intoxicated or Public Intoxication; Smith responded, “I think we don’t just arbitrarily stack charges on someone.” But, when later asked why he recommended that Rose or Copeland conduct sobriety tests on Chacon, who was already under arrest for the alleged Resisting Search offense, Smith replied “to see if there were any other charges we could put on him.” (Authors’ Note: Rest assured, despite what the officers claimed, APD never lets a DWI go!)

Leading up to trial, Judge Sparks questioned Sgt. Smith about why the Austin Police Department failed to investigate the circumstances that prompted Mr. Chacon to call the police. However, contrary to his self-described job duties, Smith could only say “I don’t know.” As Copeland and Rose’s supervisor, it was his job to know.

Chacon’s legal team called expert witness Dr. George Kirkham, a criminologist out of Florida. Despite Dr. Kirkham’s extensive experience that far exceeded that of Rose and Copeland’s expert witness, William Terryl, the Assistant City Attorney objected to Dr. Kirkham being allowed to testify. Judge Sparks quickly overruled the objection and decisively affirmed “he’s an expert.”

Dr. Kirkham testified, based upon his expert opinion, that the actions of Rose and Copeland were contrary to standard police practices and procedures, and that their force used was objectively unreasonable.

Had the jury believed the officers’ version of events, they would have held in the officers’ favor and Chacon would have lost the lawsuit. Instead, they found one million reasons to hold in favor of Carlos Chacon.

The jury found Russell Rose liable for $1,000,000.00, not Eric Copeland. Rose was the officer who immediately pulled his gun on Chacon, and tased him. Copeland punched Chacon in the face twice. Copeland made the news one year after the Chacon assault when he shot and killed a man.

Chief Art Acevedo’s Inconsistent Handling of Dishonesty Among his “Troops:”

On October 28, 2013, Officer Blayne Williams, an African American APD officer who had in the past filed a charge of discrimination against Chief Acevedo, was terminated based solely upon Chief Acevedo’s subjective opinion that Williams was dishonest. Chief Acevedo failed to indicate in Williams’ disciplinary memo exactly how Williams was dishonest. Even an Internal Affairs investigator testified at Williams’s arbitration that he did not know what specific statements Chief Acevedo believed were dishonest. Officer Blayne Williams fought against his termination, and an arbitrator determined that Williams was not dishonest and that he should not have been terminated.

One particular APD Officer Gallenkamp has developed a reputation for dishonesty amongst the Travis County Criminal Defense Bar. Ask your friendly criminal defense attorney about the reasons. Nevertheless, Copeland and Rose are still in uniform, having never been disciplined.

Media Presence Lacking at Chacon’s Trial:

The press did not cover Carlos Chacon’s trial, and brief news reports about the trial were only released after the jury awarded $1,000,00.00 in damages. Typically, when a case involves a matter of public concern, especially on a hot-button issue like police abuse, the press shows up during the trial testimony. Often, one will see photographers outside the courthouse, waiting to click shots of the parties. Not so in Carlos Chacon’s trial.

Austin Police Department’s Police Chief Art Acevedo is well known in Austin for his mastery of the media. In 2010, he made it clear that he wanted to stay in Austin in order to finish projects he started and “he want[ed] to finish working with the media.”

Philip Perea posted this on his Facebook, and for that, Acevedo had him fired.

Acevedo has developed such a rapport with the media that news stations would rather fire their own than to upset him. Reporter Philip Perea committed suicide in January of this year after he was fired for posting an unflattering picture of Art Acevedo on facebook. Acevedo had responded to the assault of a jogging jaywalker by saying that “In other cities there’s cops who are actually committing sexual assaults on duty, so I thank God that this is what passes for controversy in Austin, Texas.” The picture Perea posted on facebook made Acevedo look like a buffoon. When Acevedo took issue, Perea was fired. Acevedo’s quote turned into a meme with the phrase “at least we didn’t rape you.

APD lost more credibility when two of Acevedo’s officers joked about rape, captured by their dash-cam equipment: “Go ahead. Call the cops. They can’t unrape you.

Acevedo lost still more credibility when he suggested that young women should not defend themselves with firearms, but should go ahead, be raped, get counseling, and get over it.

Acevedo does more than exercise some control over how the media reports on him, he has outright banned people from his twitter and facebook. These social media accounts are considered public fora, and yet, Acevedo handles them as if they were his private accounts. We’ll report more about Acevedo’s handling of social media in a subsequent blog.

Congratulations to Chacon:

In the meantime, hats-off to Carlos Chacon for being fearless and going after APD. It is frightening taking on an entity with that much power and weaponry. Hats-off to Chacon’s legal team including Broadus Spivey for fighting the good fight and winning.

City of Austin Mayor Steve Adler, are you paying attention to how much APD is costing Austin? Austin City Counsel, are you? While this assault may not have happened on y’all’s watch, you’re on-watch now. Will you protect your citizens?

Jermaine Hopkins is an Iraqi War veteran, and 14-year police officer, whose own tribulations with APD are detailed here.

Millie Thompson is a criminal defense attorney, whose office is located in Austin, Texas.

Reprinted with permission from MILLIE L. THOMPSON, ATTORNEY.

22 Jan
2015
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Increasing Popularity of Cop Watching as a Direct Action Tactic

The popularity of cop watching as a direct action tactic has been surging nationally. In the aftermath of the unjust killing of Michael Brown, and particularly the overly aggressive and violent actions that the various law enforcement agencies took against those protesting Michael Brown’s killing, We Copwatch (led by our friend and ally Jacob Crawford) teamed up with the Canfield Watchmen (led by David Whitt) to create a cop watching presence in Ferguson and the surrounding areas. Like the Peaceful Streets Project did in 2012, We Copwatch and the Canfield Watchmen raised thousands of dollars to put scores of cameras into the hands of the people so they could hold police accountable.

But the current cop watching activities of the police accountability movement that has been energized by the killings of Brown, Eric Garner and other unarmed (and most often black) people is only the crest of a wave that has been building for decades. The Peaceful Streets Project engaged in cop watching after we formed in 2012 because we believed that that was one of the most powerful ways to let the police know that we were not going to stand by as they continued to commit crimes against the people. Cop watching also allowed us to strengthen communities that would protect and serve each other, instead of hoping that the people who often abuse them might decide to help them when they are the victim of a crime by someone who is not a police officer. Finally, cop watching allowed many victims of police abuse to feel that they were once again in control of their lives. For a victim of police abuse to be able to stand up to a police officer, and film them as the police officer glares at them, and to know that people are there to stand behind the filmer is quite powerful. For many it is a part of the healing process that never comes through the criminal or civil courts.

We were lucky to be able to learn from the successes and failures of cop watchers that came before us. Jacob Crawford and We Copwatch had been cop watching for years, and we were able to use their work as a guide for ours. But we also met members of the Austin Brown Berets who didn’t have the benefit of cell phones and portable cameras when they were trying to rein in abusive and racist police in the late 70′s and early 80′s. We also had the opportunity to host Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale and learn from him how they cop watched when all they had were their eyes to bear witness to police abuse, and their rifles to serve as a deterrent to the police abusing them. (Note: The Peaceful Streets Project prohibits the carrying of weapons when we cop watch because we don’t want criminal cops to have a ready excuse to kill our activists; and as Bobby told us, today the camera is more powerful than the rifle.)

Cop watching has come a long way since the 60′s, and too often those who dared to cop watch were ridiculed and slandered by those who claimed to be “law and order” types. But the theme that runs through cop watching from the Black Panther Party, the Brown Berets, We Copwatch, the Peaceful Streets Project, and the Canfield Watchmen is that the cop watchers have always stood in opposition to oppression and have always been eager to call out the institutionalized violence of the police state. It is the cop watchers that stand up for the most vulnerable members of society – the people the police choose to prey upon as opposed to protect.

The act of cop watching has become perhaps the most powerful direct action tactic. Know Your Rights trainings are critical in educating people. Giving victims a platform to share their stories of abuse raises awareness. Organizing summits can help build communities. And many people are doing great work trying to change laws to help chip away at the police state. But it seems that cop watching is the tactic that has the greatest ability to change the way that victims respond to police abuse, to immediately alter the behavior of the police, and to help those on the sidelines to recognize that the offense that police everywhere take to filming indicates that the bad cop mentality is rooted deep within the culture of law enforcement.

The movement has now drafted the young and elderly, people of all races and all socio-economic backgrounds, and now the movement is even getting airtime on mainstream media. Last weekend, Peaceful Streets Project founder Antonio Buehler even had a five minute piece that ran on Fox News at 10p Eastern. While this riled up many Fox News watchers, it no doubt also planted some seeds. Perhaps some of them will even join us in the streets as we film the police. This movement is winning, and this movement is on the right side of history.

#FilmThePolice

7 Nov
2014
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Official Celebration of Antonio Buehler’s Acquittal! (There will be a live stream)

Come celebrate Antonio Buehler’s acquittal this Saturday in Austin! This acquittal was the second major milestone for Buehler. The first was a favorable ruling by Federal Magistrate Judge Mark Lane who affirmed the right of the people to film the police.

Come listen to his attorney Millie Thompson and Jermaine Hopkins, the police officer who crossed the thin blue line to shed light on the criminal actions of the Austin Police Department. In addition to Thompson and Hopkins, We’ll celebrate the very brave witnesses who stepped forward to protect Buehler, the jury members who refused to be intimidated by the prosecutor, and the community who rallied behind Buehler. There is much fighting left to be done, but Saturday is an opportunity to reflect and give thanks.

This is a child friendly venue with a playground. Dogs welcome on a leash. Bring the family, have some drinks, enjoy!

Organizer Justin Arman, the TAG Executive Director said, “In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau articulated that our conscience is our only guide for right and wrong, and that cowardice and immorality comes from people who simply follow rules. Antonio stood up for a woman being abused by two men, as any person of character would, however what made this notable was the fact that he did not allow their shiny badges to blind his judgement. All of the people who testified on behalf of Antonio, including Austin Police Officer Jermaine Hopkins (who bravely crossed the thin blue line), and the jurors themselves, exemplified Thoreau’s thesis; Antonio was right. Throughout the entire case, the prosecution simply begged the question, follow the rules because they’re the rules; resign your conscience and everything will be fine.” He continued, “I spoke with Antonio the morning after his victory, and he has made it clear that this was not his victory, this win celebrates the act of standing up for one another. What will last much longer than the details of this case, is the inspiration for individuals and communities to protect and serve each other.”

The celebration will run from 7-10 p.m. at Freddie’s Place at 1703 South First St, Austin, Texas 78704.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1492858734333390/

Important Notes:

**Live Stream Landing Page (courtesy of the Houston Free Thinkers and The Liberty Beat): http://thelibertybeat.com/buehler-party/

**Please bring recording equiptment, for event coverage and if needed for cop watching.

**Please use hashtag #buehlervictory when tweeting, facebooking, posting photos, posting videos, or other wise discussing the event!

30 Oct
2014

Antonio Buehler Found Not Guilty!

Antonio Buehler was found Not Guilty on the charge of Disobeying a Lawful Order last evening, after six hours of deliberation by the jury.

(left to right) APD Officer Jermaine Hopkins, Defense Lawyer Millie Thompson, Defendant Antonio Buehler


During closing arguments, Millie Thompson, Buehler’s defense lawyer, argued that Buehler did not have to obey Oborski’s orders to put his hands behind his back because Oborski’s orders were illegal. They were illegal because the detention, assault and arrest of Norma Pizana were illegal, and because the detention and assault on Buehler in advance of his arrest were also illegal. She implored the jury to review the videos and audio if need be, to read carefully the jury charge, and to stand by their convictions and to not be intimidated by the Austin Police Department that had upwards of a dozen police officers in the court during the trial. She also encouraged them to have the courage to stand up for others the way that so many stood up on New Year’s Day, 2012. Norma Pizana stood up for the rights of her driver. Buehler stood up for Pizana. Numerous witnesses then came forward to stand up for Buehler, including a witness who testified that Officer Robert Snider then threatened him with arrest. Finally, Jermaine Hopkins, an Austin Police Officer said that he couldn’t in good conscience allow Buehler’s civil rights to be violated, so he crossed the thin blue line to testify on behalf of the defense.

Thompson had a well prepared defense that included a T-chart that she wrote on a white board that compared the legal orders that were given by the officers versus the illegal orders. The legal orders side was left blank while the illegal orders side had at least a half dozen listed. She also questioned the notion that Buehler was a threat, highlighting that even Pizana who was in extreme distress as she was being assaulted knew that Antonio was holding a camera, not a potential weapon as asserted by City Prosecutor Matthew McCabe; that Buehler never got in the face of Oborski or Snider; and that Buehler never articulated a threat of any sort towards the police, but instead simply asked them why they were assaulting Pizana. As an alternative to him being a threat, she wrote on the other half of the whiteboard that what really bothered the police officers was that he questioned their manhood. He did so, Thompson said, because he was the one who was in control of himself that night; he questioned the cops on their aggressive assault of an unarmed, nonviolent woman; and he spoke to the police officers as if he were a father figure as Snider claimed, as if the cops were naughty little children.

The Prosecution then presented their closing arguments, again falling back on the notion that nothing the police said or did before the order to put hands behind the back mattered, and that Buehler could only be judged based on his decision not to at that point. They also argued that any police officer has the right to handcuff anyone so long as they deem the person a threat – an argument never presented before by Officer Oborski. The Assistant City Prosecutor who tried the case, Matthew McCabe, continued with his ethically questionable antics during closing arguments. He seemingly intentionally misstated the law over and over again, despite objections by the Defense. He also decided to demonstrate how palms forward, arms out to the side, may not be a universal symbol of non-aggression, but instead a very challenging aggressive stance. He threw his arms out to the side, threw his his chest forward, and stepped toward the jury numerous times demonstrating how Buehler’s efforts to deescalate a situation with a police officer who had assaulted him might actually be a threatening gesture. The move likely backfired, as several jurors who had seen videos showing only Oborski advancing toward Buehler, had looks of disgust on their face.

Buehler was elated at the ruling. He said, “Finally, after three years, I no longer have charges hanging over my head from an incident in which I saw two Austin Police Officers violently assault an innocent woman, and in which I was violently assaulted for filming and speaking out about the crimes of Officers Patrick Oborski and Robert Snider. The lengths that the City Attorneys and the Austin Police Department have gone to try to railroad me and permanently stain my record with a crime they know I didn’t commit are despicable. I hope that the people of Austin begin to realize that the police in this city are not here to protect and serve the people of Austin. I also hope that the people of Austin recognize the immense courage of the jury and all the witnesses who were willing to stand up and do the right thing, instead of folding under the threat of retaliation by the Austin Police Department.”

He went on to reiterate points made by his attorney Millie Thompson, “There were so many heroes in this trial. Norma stood up for Ashley. I stood up for Norma. Numerous people stood up for me at that 7-Eleven both that night and in the aftermath of my arrest. And during the trial a police officer stood up for me by crossing the thin blue line. And now five jurors stood up for justice in the face of lies and intimidation from the city prosecutors and police.

Thompson added, “APD delayed trial. APD withheld evidence. And the prosecution tried at every turn to protect APD by obstructing our ability to lay out the facts and law for the jury. The jury, however, saw this case for what it was, and said by their verdict: “Not Guilty.”

Antonio Buehler is an entrepreneur in the education space, a West Point, Stanford and Harvard graduate, and the founder of the police accountability activist group, the Peaceful Streets Project. Buehler currently has a pending Federal Civil Rights lawsuit against the City of Austin as well as several Austin Police officers, including Patrick Oborski and Robert Snider.

28 Oct
2014

Antonio Buehler Case to Enter into Fourth Day; Questions About Conduct of the Prosecutor Arise

Those who showed up for the Class C Misdemeanor trial against Antonio Buehler on Monday were expecting to hear closing arguments and receive a jury verdict before lunch, but they were surprised to find that the case would not end by lunch. A juror walked in about an hour before the trial was expected to resume and asked the Judge to be excused from duty. The Defense and the Prosecution were both willing to allow the juror to leave for personal reasons; however, the subsequent move for a mistrial by City Prosecutor Matthew McCabe left many scratching their heads as to why the City of Austin was so eager to prevent a jury from making a decision in what has now become a four-day trial (over a seven day period).

Buehler’s defense lawyer Millie Thompson responded by moving to allow five jurors to deliberate in order to prevent forcing multiple witnesses from out of town to attend another trial, and to save the taxpayers the expense of another three- to four-day trial over a Class C Misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a $500 fine.

Spectators who have been watching the jury trial keep questioning the motives and tactics of McCabe and the City Prosecutor’s Office. While Buehler has Thompson to defend him, the City has had six to eight members of the Prosecutor’s Office assisting McCabe throughout the trial. In addition to being filled with City prosecutors, the courtroom has also been filled with Austin Police Department officers. Throughout the trial, there have been at least six police officers in uniform and in plain clothes passing time in the gallery. One of the spectators has been Assistant Police Chief Jason Dusterhoft. In his previous role as the Commander of Highway Enforcement, Dusterhoft oversaw both Officer Patrick Oborski, who Buehler alleges illegally assaulted and illegally arrested him on New Year’s Day, 2012, and Sergeant Adam Johnson, who Buehler alleges illegally arrested him on September 21, 2012. Both Oborski and Johnson are being sued by Buehler.

McCabe’s antics during the trial have been as unnerving for some as has the show of force by the Austin Police Department. In addition to trying to shame Norma Pizana, the woman who was initially assaulted by Officers Robert Snider and Patrick Oborski, he often distracted witnesses and jurors with countless huffs, puffs and sarcastic laughs. At one point, while Buehler was explaining how the action that Snider and Oborski took against Pizana was a recognized torture move, McCabe began to laugh, and was rebuked by Buehler for making light of torture. McCabe has also consistently misstated the law regarding reasonable suspicion, probable cause and Terry stops, and he has allowed his witnesses to do the same. Despite frequent objections by Thompson, McCabe has continued to push forward in the apparent hopes of convincing the jury that the officers were acting under circumstances that they had never before alleged or testified to.

Additionally, spectators and legal observers were dumbfounded when they heard that prosecutors had withheld discovery from the defendant. The defense did not receive the dash cam videos until 2 years and nine months after the initial arrest! Additionally, the prosecution never acknowledged that they had the 7-Eleven surveillance video until they realized the defense had acquired it through other channels.

Buehler said he was concerned about his right to a fair trial. “We came into this trial hoping that the truth would win out. Unfortunately, it seems that the Prosecution’s bully tactics and misconduct have gone far beyond just misleading the jury about the events of New Year’s 2012, it has now encroached upon prosecutorial misconduct as they are deliberately misleading the jury on what the law states.”

Buehler’s attorney Millie Thompson had more to say. “The City’s conduct regarding Antonio Buehler is almost like a law school exam: ‘How many Constitutional Law violations can you spot?’

“First, his First Amendment rights were violated by APD when they attacked him for asking questions and taking pictures. Then, APD officers illegally detained and assaulted him in retaliation for that First Amendment protected speech. Third, they let felony harassment of a public servant charges stay pending for more than a year when – we now know – the officer didn’t think there was any intentional conduct. By leaving the charges pending without informing his chain of command that he didn’t believe the alleged spit was intentional, he violated Mr. Buehler’s rights to Due Process. Fourth, the City put this Class C ticket on the back-burner for 2 years and 10.5 months before taking it trial – a violation of the Speedy Trial Clause.

“And, now, the piece de resistance: The City wants to violate the Double Jeopardy Clause by asking for a mistrial so they can have a do-over.

“I was born in Austin and went to Reagan High School. My parents were born here; my grandparents were born here. My great grandfather Kenneth Threadgill, who founded Threadgills, was born here. Austinites expect more from their local government than what they’ve seen in this case.”

Day four of the Buehler trial begins at 8:30 a.m., on Wednesday, October 28th at Courtroom #2A of the Austin Municipal Courthouse.

DEFENDANT’S MEMORANDUM OF LAW OPPOSING THE STATE’S MOTION FOR MISTRIAL: Opposition to Mistrial

27 Oct
2014

Trial for the Controversial New Year’s Day Arrest of Antonio Buehler Concludes Monday, October 27th at Austin Municipal Court

Tomorrow morning, Monday, October 27th, at the Austin Municipal Courthouse, what has been perhaps the most exciting and tense Class C Misdemeanor trial in recent Austin history will finally come to a close.

On Friday, in a surprise move that would extend the trial into a third day, Austin City Prosecutor Matthew McCabe recalled Officer Robert Snider and called APD Academy Instructor Raul Carrillo to testify. Calling Snider back to the stand was a curious move, considering that Snider did not endear himself to the jury for the way he described his decision to pull Norma Pizana out of the passenger seat of a car for texting on her phone, and for his admission that he threatened to arrest a pedestrian bystander who observed the arrests of Buehler, Pizana and Hill. Snider ended up leaving the witness stand without answering a single question.

Officer Carrillo, the prosecution’s last minute star witness was perhaps an even bigger mistake. Without being qualified as an expert, Carrillo could not testify to the specifics of Buehler’s New Year’s Day arrest, so instead he was forced to answer hypothetical scenarios. McCabe tried to lead Carrillo down a path that would suggest that the actions of Officers Patrick Oborski and Robert Snider were justified. Buehler’s attorney Millie Thompson, meanwhile, walked Carrillo down a hypothetical path that mirrored the New Year’s Day arrest, leading Carrillo to acknowledge that Oborski should not have approached Buehler, should have probably backed up when he realized he was too close to Buehler, and that Oborski’s actions were tantamount to assault.

Earlier in the day the, Austin Police Officer Jermaine Hopkins crossed the “thin blue line” to testify on behalf of the defense. When asked why he chose to step forward, Hopkins said that he couldn’t in good conscience allow the Austin Police Department to trample upon Mr. Buehler’s civil rights. Hopkins helped correct what the Defense believed were misstatements by the Prosecutor, Oborski, and Snider about the law regarding probable cause and reasonable suspicion. Thompson later filed a motion with the judge to properly instruct the jury on the law before deliberations.

Additionally, Antonio Buehler had his opportunity to testify before the Defense rested their case. Buehler got choked up early on, describing how Pizana’s cried, “Help me please!” as Oborski and Snider ratcheted her arms up behind her back, but he recovered quickly to describe in detail everything that followed. Buehler continually referenced the videos as he explained how Oborski approached him and begin to shove and push him without cause, well before there was any claim of Oborski being spit on. Buehler also admitted to ignoring Oborski’s instructions to put his hands behind his back, as he deemed such instructions to be unlawful given what he believed were previous illegal acts by both Oborski and Snider. While Buehler’s testimony was expected to take 2-3 hours, McCabe apparently did not seem eager to question Buehler and quickly passed the witness.

“I was really disappointed that McCabe didn’t ask me more questions,” Buehler said. “He continued, “Every time McCabe asked me a question, we were able to highlight how malicious and dishonest their case is, which explains why he was so eager to get me off the stand. I hope the jury saw what was evident to everyone else in the courtroom—that unlike the prosecution, we didn’t have to try to keep our lies straight—all we had to do was speak the truth. I hope that the people of Austin are the next ones to recognize the incredibly disturbing lengths that the Austin Police Department and the City Prosecutors have taken to try to cover up the crimes of two corrupt cops.”

Buehler’s attorney Millie Thompson said, “The police arrested an innocent man. By doing so, they guaranteed a long and expensive court battle. We had a three day trial. Three police officers testified for the State. Six witnesses testified for the defense. Six Austinite jurors. The lost man-hours and State’s resources that went into prosecuting this frivolous Class C Misdemeanor with a maximum $500 fine are extraordinary – all to protect APD’s unconstitutional conduct. Do Austin tax payers want their money spent this way? ”

Antonio Buehler is an entrepreneur in the education space, a West Point, Stanford and Harvard graduate, and the founder of the police accountability activist group, the Peaceful Streets Project. Buehler currently has a pending Federal Civil Rights lawsuit against the City of Austin as well as several Austin Police officers, including Patrick Oborski and Robert Snider.

23 Oct
2014
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Press Release: Trial for the Controversial New Year’s Day Arrest of Antonio Buehler Set for Thursday, October 23rd at Austin Municipal Court

Antonio Buehler, who was arrested after he stood up for a woman who he believed was being assaulted by two Austin police officers, will be in court Thursday to defend himself against a charge of Disregarding the Order of a Police Officer. The trial will take place at Austin Municipal Court courtroom #2A at 8:30 a.m., tomorrow morning. The jury trial is expected to take one to two days, with the city bringing officers Patrick Oborski and Robert Snider to testify against Buehler. The defense will bring several witnesses who will testify that Austin police officers illegally assaulted and arrested Buehler for exercising his First Amendment rights after those officers illegally assaulted and arrested a young woman for exercising her First Amendment rights during a DWI stop.

In addition to hearing testimony from witnesses who observed Buehler’s arrest, it is expected that attendees will be able to view the cell phone video taken by a bystander, the 7-Eleven surveillance video that was released earlier this week, as well as the video and associated audio from both Patrick Oborski’s and Robert Snider’s dash cameras.

“I’m thrilled that my lawyer Millie Thompson has been able to force the hand of the City of Austin so that I can finally get my day in court,” Buehler said. He went on to say, “Chief Art Acevedo and the Austin Police Department have expended considerable effort covering up the crimes of their officers for nearly three years, slandering and retaliating against me and the other victim in the process, instead of simply holding their police officers accountable for their crimes. It’s about time that the media and the public will finally be exposed to the unabashed corruption and misconduct that Art Acevedo and his underlings have engaged in.”

Buehler’s attorney Millie Thompson said, “Across the country, citizens now wonder if police officers should wear video equipment attached to their uniforms. Luckily in Antonio Buehler’s case, we have four different video recordings of the January 1, 2012 events: One from a bystander, two from the officers’ vehicles, and one surveillance video. We are excited that a jury will weigh the independent witnesses’ testimony with the video evidence against the officers’ tales to fully, finally, and fairly decide this case. ”

Antonio Buehler is an entrepreneur in the education space, a West Point, Stanford and Harvard graduate, and the founder of the police accountability activist group, the Peaceful Streets Project. Buehler currently has a pending Federal Civil Rights lawsuit against the City of Austin as well as several Austin Police officers, including Patrick Oborski and Robert Snider.

21 Oct
2014

Press Release: Peaceful Streets Project Response to APD’s Latest Attack on First Amendment

In response to the Austin Police Department’s (APD) continued attempts to prosecute Antonio Buehler, the Peaceful Streets Project will be launching a series of actions from October 21st to the 24th. They are attempting to convict him on several charges, to include a charge of failing to obey a “lawful order” associated with his controversial New Year’s Day, 2012 arrest. In a recent release from Antonio Buehler, he explained the initial arrest:

“On January 1, 2012, I saw two Austin cops assaulting a woman who had not committed a crime. When I tried to take pictures and question the cops, I was assaulted and charged with a felony crime of spitting in a cop’s face (2-10 year prison sentence).

Fortunately, numerous witnesses came forward, including one who took video of the incident. Every witness said the cop lied and the video proves it. However, the APD pushed forward with their charges against me.”

In March of 2013, APD failed to get a grand jury indictment against Antonio Buehler for any of the charges that he had been arrested on. However, they were curiously able to have him indicted on four Class C Misdemeanors for alleged crimes he was never arrested on, an unheard of action taken against a victim of police abuse by a grand jury. Antonio pushed forward with a civil suit in the wake of the grand jury ruling. In an attempt to undermine the validity of the civil suit, APD and the City Attorney are pushing forward on the Class C Misdemeanor charges even though Buehler was clearly exercising his First Amendment right according to SCOTUS. Through this action, the APD violated the 1st Amendment in practice, while hypocritically claiming to adhere to the law. The first court date is set for October 23rd at 8:30 a.m. at Municipal Courthouse courtroom #2A.

On Tuesday, October 21st, the Peaceful Streets Project will host a meeting to address the court case and to organize the direct actions we will be launching in response. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m., Tuesday, October 21st, in the indoor back room of Spider House Cafe, 2908 Fruth St. The actions will begin with a ceremonial copwatch on the west end of North Lamar in the area of the initial incident on New Year’s Day, 2012. Then at night, after the first day in court we will launch continued copwatch in the west end district as well as copwatch actions throughout the 6th street area. It is believed that the officer in charge of the task force that initially arrested Antonio Buehler, Adam Johnson, has been reassigned to horse patrol on 6th street. These actions are prepared to continue nightly until a dismissal or non-guilty verdict is reached.

The court system belongs to the same corrupt system as the police department. Historically it heavily, if not infinitely, favors the police no matter how wicked their deed. But the streets themselves belong to the community of the people they assault, oppress and exploit. Here in these streets the Austin Police Department will answer for their deeds through the use of non-violent actions utilizing our First Amendment rights.

20 Oct
2014

BREAKING: Surveillance Video from Controversial New Year’s Day Arrest of Antonio Buehler Released for Public Viewing

For the first time, the public is able to view the 7-Eleven surveillance video that captured the controversial arrest of Antonio Buehler on January 1, 2012.

Buehler made headlines after he photographed and called out two Austin police officers for assaulting an innocent woman in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, 2012. After threatening Buehler with the words, “Worry about yourself!” Officer Patrick Oborski assaulted Buehler, and filed a Felony 3 – Harassment of a Public Servant charge against him for allegedly spitting in the officer’s face – a charge that carries a two to ten year prison sentence.

Facing felony charges, Buehler went to the public to ask for witnesses to step forward, and multiple witnesses did. A local entrepreneur and a local academician who were both in the 7-Eleven parking lot shared their stories with the local media, and a gentleman across the street took cell phone video of the incident. With witnesses and the video, coupled with Buehler’s background which included degrees from West Point and Stanford, prior service as an Airborne Ranger qualified Army officer, extensive volunteering and education work with children, his role as a designated driver that night, and no previous run-ins with law enforcement, the incident garnered significant media attention and forced the Austin Police Department to resort to a slander campaign against Buehler and the woman who were assaulted. Additionally, despite countless requests from concerned citizens and the media, APD refused to release any audio or video from the incident.

Buehler leveraged his diverse following of supporters to launch the Peaceful Streets Project to encourage people to know their rights, stand up for the rights of one another and to hold police accountable for their actions. The Peaceful Streets Project handed out 100 free video cameras to residents of Austin to document police action, they organized hundreds of cop watch events, they hosted over a dozen Know Your Rights training sessions, and they organized two police accountability summits.

With the rise of the success of the Peaceful Streets Project, the Austin Police Department increased their harassment of Buehler and his supporters. APD arrested several Peaceful Streets Project volunteers for filming, including Buehler who they arrested three more times.

Buehler’s charges remained outstanding for 15 months before a Grand Jury finally no-billed Buehler. However, in a stark departure from traditional Grand Jury practices, they indicted him on four Class C Misdemeanors that he was never charged with. With Class C Misdemeanor indictments, Buehler was handicapped in his ability to file a Federal Civil Rights lawsuit against the City of Austin and the police officers who illegally arrested him. He ultimately retained Daphne Silverman and filed suit against APD officers Patrick Oborski, Robert Snider, Adam Johnson, Justin Berry, Chief of Police Art Acevedo and the City of Austin just before the two year anniversary of his controversial arrest.

Nearly three years after his arrest, this Thursday, October 23rd, Buehler is finally going to get his day in court. At the Austin Municipal Court courtroom #2A, at 8:30 a.m., Buehler will defend himself against a charge of Disregarding the Order of a Police Officer for not putting his arms behind his back after Oborski illegally and without probable cause assaulted Buehler for exercising his First Amendment rights. The outcome of this case will help determine whether or not the City of Austin moves forward with the other three Class C Misdemeanor charges against Buehler, and it will influence the direction of Buehler’s civil suit against the police officers and the City of Austin.

Buehler said he is looking forward to Thursday. “For nearly three years, the Austin Police Department has been slandering me, harassing me, and targeting me for illegal arrests. Since day one, I wanted to share my story and all available evidence with the public to prove my innocence and to put a spotlight on the conduct of Patrick Oborski and the other officers within the Austin Police Department. Meanwhile, the Austin Police Department has suppressed all evidence related to my arrests while intentionally feeding lies about me and their other victims to the media. I’m glad the 7-Eleven surveillance video that shows that Oborski was the aggressor and that he lied about me spitting in his face is finally being released. Further, through the trial on the 23rd, Austin will finally be able to hear from witnesses who were at the scene, see the dash cams, and listen to the audio that further exposes the lies of Patrick Oborski and the subsequent cover up by the Austin Police Department.”

7-Eleven surveillance video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3kvi0Oyo0U

10 Sep
2014
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Was the Austin Police Department trying to justify using deadly force against Peaceful Streets Project volunteers?

“***CONFIDENTIAL- Law Enforcement Only***”

The Austin Police Department went to great lengths to lay the groundwork to justify using deadly force against Antonio Buehler and members of the Peaceful Streets Project in 2012 & 2013.

The first three images come from an email/report from Officer Justin Berry, the police officer who arrested Peaceful Streets Project co-founder, Antonio Buehler on August 26th, 2012. Buehler’s crime? Filming cops. In it he goes to great lengths to suggest that Buehler and the Peaceful Streets Project may be a domestic terrorist threat, and an imminent threat to police officers.

The second three images come from an email that Austin Police Association President Wayne Vincent sent to Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, insisting that the Peaceful Streets Project poses a real threat to police and that the police department, city and county prosecutors, and city attorneys should collude to take action against Buehler and other members of the Peaceful Streets Project.

The next three images also come from an email from Wayne Vincent, but this time to all of the cops in Austin. In it he tells the coward cops of Austin that their lives are in danger, and even uses the term “dead cop” to convince them how dangerous people with cameras are. Not surprisingly, Wayne Vincent also shared a veiled threat against Buehler and the Peaceful Streets Project with a local news station.

The next image comes from an email from Adam Johnson, a criminal cop who arrested Antonio Buehler on September 21, 2012 for filming cops. Adam Johnson is also Patrick Oborski’s supervisor. He just wanted to make sure that he let the Commander Jason Dusterhoft and Lieutenant Derek Galloway know that he appreciated them covering for a cop they know committed numerous felony crimes.

Reading further down the email, the Austin Police Department tried to claim that Peaceful Streets Project co-founder Harold Gray had made threats to Officer Robert Snider. Robert Snider was the cop who assaulted an innocent woman on January 1, 2012 in downtown Austin, and who later joined Officer Patrick Oborski in assaulting Peaceful Streets Project co-founder Antonio Buehler. The “threats” made to Officer Robert Snider was a suggestion that volunteers flier Snider’s neighborhood with information so that his neighbors would know what their buddy cop did.

The next image comes from an email from the previously mentioned coward, criminal Austin Police Department Cop Justin Berry wherein he accuses Peaceful Streets Project co-founder John Bush of stockpiling weapons for future violent action against the police.

Who exactly do the cops in Austin work for?