About johnbryanlaw

John H. Bryan is a West Virginia criminal defense and civil rights attorney practicing out of Union, and Lewisburg, West Virginia. For more information, visit his website at www.johnbryanlaw.com.

$550,000 Verdict After 58 Year-old Woman Tased

Breaking news out of federal court in South Carolina, where a federal jury has just awarded a $550,000 verdict against a former Richland County Sheriff’s deputy, as well as the sheriff’s department itself.

Here are the relevant case documents, including the complaint, jury instructions, verdict form, as well as the full deposition transcript of one of the officers:

Cop’s Traffic Meltdown | Gets Fired

On December 13, 2022, Waterbury, Connecticut police officer James Hinkle had a complete meltdown, caught on video, that ended in him getting fired for verbally abusing a motorist. Details here.

Here’s the statement from the employer:

“His conduct during this encounter with a citizen of the community is unacceptable and not representative of the men and women serving the Waterbury Police Department,” Waterbury Chief Fernando Spagnolo said in a statement. “WPD officers are trained to demonstrate the highest level of professionalism when performing their duties.”

Lawsuit Filed in the Hillbilly Law Degree Case

Yesterday we filed a federal section 1983 civil rights lawsuit against the police officer featured in the “Hillbilly Law Degree” video posted back in October.

On January 10, 2021, my client, John, went to Walmart, during all the insanity that shall not be discussed. He was not committing any crime. He felt he was being treated unfairly. He was just trying to buy some products and was in the process of checking out. But Manager Karen at Walmart called the cops on him, reporting that he was refusing to wear a thing she wanted him to wear, and using some bad words. A police officer responded, and this is her body cam footage. If a non-crime was reported, usually they are investigating a potential trespassing situation. The problem with that is, many states, like West Virginia, only penalize trespassing where a customer was given the opportunity to leave, but refused. If the person even offers to leave, and the cop says, no you can’t leave, give me your ID or you’re going to jail, is that legal? 

This presents a common scenario where police officers attempt to manufacture a “stop and ID” law, where none exists:

There’s a dispute between a store and a customer. The store calls the police, reporting something that’s not a crime. The police show up to investigate the said non-crime. They demand ID. Now like many states, West Virginia does not have a “stop and ID” law. However, if they have reasonable suspicion a crime was committed, and that a particular individual committed that crime, they can perform an investigative detention which can involve forcibly obtaining an ID from a suspect. So what is the crime? Can the alleged crime of “trespassing” be used to detain and ID a shopper who has not been asked to leave the store, and who has not been given the opportunity, or even allowed, to leave the store by the responding police officer? 

Here’s the complaint:

Here’s the original video:

Video: Cop’s “Exhibition Driving” Incident Under Investigation

This footage comes to us from Birmingham, Alabama, where we see a police cruiser physically ramming a vehicle involved in a so-called exhibition driving event, which I take it means just doing donuts mostly, while people film. This officer is now under investigation by the Birmingham Police Department. Is that legal? Can a police officer ram a vehicle doing donuts, or whatever else “exhibition” driving consists of? What constitutional rights are at play?

Link to media report and raw footage.

Motion for Summary Judgment Filed in the Challenge to the 18-20 Handgun Ban

Although the Second Amendment “right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation” is supposed to belong to all Americans, right now Adult Americans age 18-20 are excluded from the commercial market for handguns. They may vote, enter contracts, and marry. They are eligible to serve in the military and die for their country. And they have, obviously. But they are prohibited by the federal Government from purchasing handguns and handgun ammunition commercially. They can buy rifles or shotguns commercially, but not handguns, which according to the SCOTUS is “the most preferred firearm in the nation to ‘keep’ and use for protection of one’s home and family.” See McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010) (quoting Heller).

This week we filed a memorandum in support of our motion for summary judgment in the Second Amendment Foundation’s federal lawsuit against the ATF challenging the ban on sales of handguns to 18-21 year olds. Here’s the filing:

Following New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n, Inc. v. Bruen, if a law restricts conduct falling within the scope of the Second Amendment’s text, as the federal Government’s Handgun Ban does, that law is presumed invalid and can only be saved if the government demonstrates the existence of a “distinctly similar historical regulation” that burdened the right to bear arms in the same way and for the same reasons.

Of course, that doesn’t exist. At the time the Second Amendment was ratified, not only were there no laws in any state that purported to limit the rights of 18 to 20 year olds to purchase handguns for self defense, there were several laws enacted, including the Militia Acts of 1792, that required 18 year olds to buy and maintain firearms.

The correct historical period in examining the public’s understanding of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms is 1791. “Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them.” See Heller. The Second Amendment was adopted in 1791.The Government directs the Court to look at laws adopted in the late 19th century and beyond to justify their Handgun Ban. The Supreme Court has already made clear that 1791 is the appropriate period. 

Even at the time that the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, in 1868, only two states had a ban like the Handgun Bun and it would be another five years before another state adopted such a law. The ATF cannot point to any historical tradition that could justify the federal government’s attempt to deviate from the plain text of the Second Amendment. Therefore, we are asking the federal court to declare the federal Handgun Ban unconstitutional.

Links:

Second Amendment Foundation

West Virginia Citizen’s Defense League

WV Cop Overdose Caught on Video | Update?

Remember the video I posted a while back showing the West Virginia police officer appearing to overdose after a suspect allegedly threw narcotics at him? Is there an update?

Is There No Right to Remain Silent About Donuts?

This footage comes to us from Lake City, Florida, where a couple of guys were apparently doing some donuts in a fairly-new-looking Corvette, ending in the car catching on fire. The fire department arrived, as well as the police. Bodycam footage shows the conversation that ensued between the investigating officer and the driver of the burned car. Was the driver required to provide a statement for the officer’s report?

Here’s the police report.

Original footage, thanks to Bodycam Files Youtube channel.

Elderly Man With Dementia Protected and Served by Police

Earlier this year, deputies with the Warren County Sheriff’s Department in Virginia attempted a traffic stop on a 77 year old man named Ralph Ennis, who was apparently suffering from dementia. He didn’t stop, but instead drove to a gas station. An officer from a different agency, the Front Royal Police Department, captured what happened on his body cam. 

The footage shows a deputy slamming the elderly man’s head against a truck while pinning his arms behind his back. A second deputy then tackles the man to the ground, hitting the man’s head on the concrete.

“Please let me up!” the man cried out, with two officers on top of him. “Let me go!” Just prior to all the violence, the video shows that all the man did was to get out of his car and walk towards the deputies with his keys in his hand. 

The Front Royal officer was clearly shaken by what he saw and said so while his body cam was still recording, as he left the scene. USA Today reported on the aftermath. The elderly man was apparently then hospitalized with a brain bleed. He would never get out of the hospital. He died about two weeks later.

Unbelievably, but not surprisingly, the government medical examiner ruled that the death was of natural causes. I’m sure that has nothing to do with the fact that the man’s son filed a lawsuit against the government. 

Here’s the complaint:

Let me repeat what I just said a few videos ago: there are two kinds of people in this world; those who support the “he deserved it defense,” and those who support the Constitution unconditionally. Those who are willing to allow police officers to bend the rules, so long as the victim deserved it, in their eyes, haven’t fully thought things through. 

Case in point: Your usual Fourth Amendment Fudd, who is the same guy that thinks the Second Amendment protects his bolt action .30-06, but not your AR-15, is okay with the police beating someone unnecessarily who chose to lead the cops on a pursuit. The same Fourth Amendment Fudd who is okay allowing police officers the discretion to mete out their version of justice with no due process, however is NOT okay with the cops beating his elderly father with dementia who had no idea what was actually happening. If you allow one, then you have chosen to allow the other. By definition. You either protect all constitutional rights, or you protect none. 

This is just one of many recent incidents involving police officers and elderly people with dementia. Police officers have been enabled to fly-off the handle at the slightest perceived threat to their authority. They have been enabled to fly-off the handle on the basis of perceived threats to officer safety. They have been authorized to act like robots; to attack at the slightest provocation, without compassion for those they’re entrusted to serve and protect.

The law assumes that police officers will make mistakes; that they will have bad information, or misunderstand the situation. The law judges them objectively – not based on what they actually thought or intended, but based on how a reasonable officer would act in the same circumstances. 

And here’s the problem. Most of us would look at those circumstances, including good police officers, such as the guy wearing the body cam in this footage, and say, “hell no.” We are not robots. We are supposed to be able to adapt; to deal with different types of people in different scenarios. What would happen if a confused old man walked into a bank, holding his keys in his hand. Would he be immediately tackled and handcuffed by security? Or would any competent person recognize that they’re dealing with an elderly man who might be confused? Does it ever cross the mind of a reasonable police officer that a vehicle may not be stopping because it’s an elderly driver who is confused or suffering from dementia? I would argue that a reasonable officer should be concerned first with protecting and serving an elderly man. 

As the U.S. population ages and more people develop dementia, older people are increasingly running into problems with the police. There’s no national count of how many people with dementia are arrested each year. But an analysis of U.S. crime data by The Marshall Project shows that the number of arrests of people over 65 grew by nearly 30% between 2000 and 2020 – at the same time that overall arrests fell by nearly 40%. The number of elder arrests is growing faster than the population is aging. National data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also estimates that from 2010 to 2020, more than 12,000 people 65 and older ended up in a hospital emergency room for injuries caused by police or private security.

Unfortunately, police officers are not taught to think about the citizen. They are taught to only think about officer safety. It’s drilled into them. Citizen safety is last. That’s our problem. But “officer safety” is not mentioned anywhere in our Constitution. Where it exists is in police officer training. Instead, police officers should be trained in how to help people. They are the ones who wanted to be in a public service job. That’s what it’s about. It’s not about them being scared. If they’re scared, go find another job. 

Freedom is scary. Deal with it. 

“Mr. Black Man, I’m Asking You a Question” | Another Military Vet Harassed

Here’s yet another video showing police officers mistreating one of our military veterans for absolutely no good reason. Gee, I wonder, what’s the common theme? Some of you are quick to criticize me anytime I bring up race. Here’s the thing. The Constitution requires police officers to have reasonable suspicion that a crime was committed before detaining an American citizen. 

Does the Constitution allow police officers to pull people over based on a hunch? No. Does the Constitution allow police officers to pull people over based on their skin color? No. Does the Constitution allow police officers to pull people over and detain them for any reason at all, short of actual reasonable suspicion that some crime or traffic law has been violated by the driver? No. Do we see them do so in video after video, after video? We sure do. Let’s take a look at this one from Jacksonville, Florida, showing the traffic stop and warrantless arrest of Navy Veteran Braxton Smith.

Media Report here.

The driver’s cell phone footage: