Scott Greenfield wrote today about a case involving a police officer who caught one of those lucky breaks in court that cops seem to get so often:
It seemed as if things couldn’t get any worse for Police Officer Patrick Pogan, when his arrest of Christopher Long, a cyclist in the Critical Mass rally, for attacking him was covertly videotaped. Only 10 days on the job and he was shown to be a violent attacker and liar. He had a great future ahead of him on the NYPD. Except for that video.
Finally prosecuted. Finally convicted, though not of the vicious assault on Long, because cops have to be allowed some latitude in vicious harming people, but convicted of filing a false instrument. And yesterday, Patrick Pogan was sentenced to life. No, not life in prison. Not life on probation, Not life in community service. He was given a conditional discharge by Justice Maxwell Wiley, which is a non-sentence sentence that says, go back to your life and have a nice day. You’ve suffered enough.
So a jury convicted him, but the judge gave him no punishment whatsoever. Scott concludes his post this way:
Yet there must be a consequence when a police officer is caught, irrefutably, lying. There must be a message that lying cops will not be tolerated. Give him 30 days. Give him probation. Give him something. The message must be that a cop cannot lie without consequences.
Instead, Patrick Pogan got life. His own life, to live whatever way he chooses, as he’s now free to move on without consequence. The message has been sent.
It’s another in a long line of good points from Scott Greenfield. But with all due respect, Scott made a mistake when he titled this post “The Big Shove Cop Gets Life.” When I read that title, I assumed he was talking about another case which he blogged about last year, linking to the original report by Sara Jean Green of the Seattle Times:
Witnesses have provided conflicting accounts of when two King County sheriff’s deputies identified themselves to an Edmonds man who ran from the deputies. He suffered life-threatening skull fractures when his head struck a concrete wall as one attempted to arrest him early Sunday in Belltown.
Seattle lawyer Sim Osborn, who has been retained by Christopher Harris’ family, said both deputies wore black uniforms and yelled to Harris from a half-block away in a darkened alley. He said one witness reported the two deputies didn’t identify themselves as law-enforcement officers until after Harris began running down the alley sometime after 1 a.m. Sunday. Osborn said Harris stopped running a few blocks away, apparently after realizing the two men chasing him were deputies.
There’s video of the incident. It happens in the first few seconds, and it’s unpleasant to watch:
(Scott and I recently had a discussion in his comments section about the distinction between a mere accident and a conscious disregard for human life. This incident seems like a clear case of the latter.)
At the time, the police were still investigating, and everything was up in the air. I wondered what happened to Christopher Harris and the deputy who shoved him.
It turns out that Sara Jean Green followed up on this story a year later in an article that came out last May. The cop who shoved Harris — now identified as King Country Deputy Matthew Paul — seems to have gotten away with it:
After reviewing the chase and apprehension of Harris, prosecutors found no basis to charge Paul with a crime. After an internal investigation cleared the deputy of wrongdoing, the King County Sheriff’s Office called the incident “a tragic accident.”
In other words, to use Scott’s terminology, Deputy Matthew Paul got life. His own life. He gets to go on as if nothing happened.
As for Christopher Harris, he wasn’t so lucky:
Sarah Harris goes through the motions of her day trying hard not to think about what life was like a year ago — or what it would be like now if not for “the incident.”
She feels guilty leaving the house, even if only for a couple of hours to visit her mom or sister, to run errands, or go grocery shopping. She still cries every night.
Her husband, the first boy she kissed and the only man she’s ever loved, suffered a catastrophic brain injury when his head slammed into a concrete wall after a brief footchase with two King County sheriff’s deputies on Mother’s Day 2009. He’s now confined to bed, unable to talk, walk or do anything for himself.
Christopher Sean Harris spent six weeks at Harborview Medical Center, where his family was encouraged to remove him from life support because doctors didn’t think he’d ever come out of a coma. But he did, and was transferred to an Edmonds nursing home in June.
Sarah Harris, who worked as a manager for Nordstrom and dreamed of becoming a buyer for the department store, gave up her job to care for her husband.
Doctors can’t put their finger on Chris Harris’ condition, Lamb said. Based on brain scans, they say he shouldn’t be able to move or make sounds. Yet, he can respond to simple commands and appears to have symptoms of “locked in” syndrome since he’s aware of what’s going on around him.
He even recognizes loved ones — his mother, his uncle, old friends from high school — who visit.
“He’ll stare at someone for a really long time, and then you’ll see the change in his eye,” Sarah Harris said. “It clicks, and all of a sudden he knows who he is looking at.”
I guess, in a different way, Christopher and Sarah Harris got life too.