Fort Smith, AR — A jury of his peers ruled this week that Officer Justin Deleon (Ret.) and the city of Fort Smith were not guilty of using excessive force against Clarence Scott when Deleon slammed Scott to the ground knocking out many of his front teeth. Scott was handcuffed and being escorted into jail when Deleon whirled him around, slamming him face-first to the ground. Despite having closed-circuit video footage of the attack, the jury—apparently blinded by the glare of the badge—ruled in favor of the officer.
Originally arrested for disorderly conduct, Scott was booked into jail following the attack. Those charges were later dropped. Scott hired several lawyers and sued the officer as well as the city of Fort Smith. Defense attorneys attempted to characterize Scott as only looking for a payday, while the plaintiffs insisted the attack was unprovoked. Unfortunately, the jury did not rule in favor of the brutalized man.
It took less than an hour for the jury in the federal civil rights lawsuit to rule in favor of Deleon. Even the local media reported Scott simply fell on his face as he was being escorted to jail. According to Arkansas Online:
The lawsuit centered on injuries Scott suffered April 18, 2014, when he fell onto the concrete floor of the Sebastian County jail’s sally port, a garage.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. From the video footage, one can clearly see a compliant Scott, being directed by Deleon into the jail. All of a sudden, the officer makes an aggressive move towards the prisoner, pushing him onto the trunk of the police cruiser. With only one hand (his other hand was holding a clipboard), the officer then tripped Scott who fell face first on the concrete floor where he reportedly suffered severe facial and dental injuries. According to Kathie Leah Hudson, one of Scott’s lawyers:
Yesterday a jury in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, exonerated the City of Ft. Smith and a (former) Ft. Smith police officer (retired due to health) that knocked out this man’s front teeth, an oral surgeon said it will take a $20,000 surgery to correct the damage to his temporal-mandibular joints and $1,000 a tooth to restore the broken and fractured top front teeth. The defense said he fell, you decide. Mr. Scott’s alleged crime was disorderly conduct, it was dismissed.
Juries all across the United States have ruled in favor of police officers when it seemed clear to everyone but the jurors the police officers were in the wrong. Hiding behind claims of “qualified immunity,” defense teams have successfully exonerated a whole host of law enforcement personnel from prosecution, litigation, and embarrassment. Somehow, someway, things have to change.
As TFTP has reported on numerous occasions, police officers have been accused of taking advantage of the helpless and defenseless position prisoners are in while they’re in handcuffs.
A Washington police officer was given a two-year paid vacation after he punched a handcuffed woman in the back of his squad car. An Indiana police officer was allowed to keep his job after punching a handcuffed man in his genitals.
In court, Deleon and his lawyers contended Scott attempted to head butt the officer. Deleon claimed taking Scott to the ground was no accident and that he reached out to try and prevent the man from getting hurt. We will let our readers decide. Below is the video posted by Scott’s lawyer.
If the roles had been reversed and Scott had slammed officer Deleon on the ground severely damaging his face and teeth, Scott would have been charged with felony assault on a police officer. So the real question remains, “Why was Deleon not charged with felony assault?” Not only was he not charged, nor was found liable in the civil suit, he was allowed to retire presumably with full benefits. Something has to change.