Jason Graber deal won't get Denver Police out of releasing excessive-force files, says David Lane
Update below: Attorney David Lane lauded Judge John Kane for threatening to fine the City of Denver if reps delayed releasing eight years of excessive-force complaints against cops and sheriff's deputies for the Jason Graber brutality case. Now, city attorneys have agreed to settle the Graber matter -- but if they think that means that'll stop the documents' release, Lane says they're wrong.
As we've reported, Graber was walking from a Denver club to the Adams Mark hotel in March 2008 when a police car sped by so fast that he motioned for the driver to slow down. Instead, the officer, Shawn Miller, stopped the car and tackled Graber to the ground.
A few days later, Miller was allegedly involved in a second brutality incident, this one targeting Iraq war veteran James Moore, another Lane client. After tracking down information in the officer's file related to the Moore case that wasn't provided in regard to Graber, Lane and company concluded that the police department was stonewalling. Hence, the sweeping request for all excessive-force documentation in recent years.
Why the Graber deal now?
"The settlement means they're going to get out from under Judge Kane's order in his case," Lane notes. "But Judge Kane has now issued basically the same order in the James Moore case. So they're getting out from under their immediate deadline of October 6. But I suspect the new deadline will be very shortly thereafter."
What's to stop the city from settling the Moore complaint, too, thereby preventing the documents' release in that forum?
"The amount of money we're going to want," Lane replies. "James Moore flatlined on the streets of Denver. CPR had to be administered to save his life because of these cops. So if Denver wants to talk about seven figures, that's fine. But the problem doesn't go away with a settlement."
"Because I'm the problem," he maintains. "The city attorney we've been negotiating with on this, Karla Pierce, told me, 'We understand the problem is not going away.' And then she looked at me and pointed at me and spat out the words, 'You are the problem.'"
The Graber settlement gives the city extra time, but at a cost. "They're paying Jason Graber a nice, sweet little settlement that's going to be made public at the next city council meeting." (Update, September 30: Lane confirms the total is $225,000.) "And Denver could have settled this for a fraction of what they're paying. We made a number of proposals to settle the case early on, before any of this shit hit the fan, and Denver said, 'Nah.'
"This is a consistent pattern with the city attorney's office. They take terrible cases, litigate them to the moon, then pay five times as much to settle them at the last minute as they would have at the start."
In Lane's view, there's a simple way to improve the situation. "If you want to stop all this police brutality in Denver, start by opening all police misconduct allegations to public scrutiny. Right now, it's being swept under the rug -- considered a private personnel matter, which is what the police union negotiated. But it's not a private personnel matter. A private personnel matter is if you need to go out for hernia surgery for a week in March. But when a citizen raises a complaint about the performance of a police officer, that investigation should be open to the public -- or at least the report should be made public.
"If the complaint is unfounded, the public can see it, But when you have someone like Shawn Miller, who's been complained about time after time after time, the only pressure to bring to bear on a situation like that comes from the media and the public -- because otherwise, Denver ignores it."
With these arguments in mind, Lane has written a letter to Suzanne Fasing, another city attorney on the case, asking for permission to address the city council at what he calls "the rubber-stamp meeting they're going to have on Monday. They've told me they don't have time, because they'll be too busy honoring Marge for her 35 years at the public library, or something like that. But instead of wringing their hands and clucking their tongues and writing check after check, they might want to do something about this problem. And having been on the receiving end of check after check, I have some insight on how they can stop the hemorrhaging.
"I'm guessing they won't want to hear from me," he concedes. And even if they do, he plans to keep being a problem for the city even if the Moore case is settled, too. "We'll make that request," for excessive-force complaints going back years, "for every case we file," he promises.
Update, 11:39 a.m. September 29: We've now obtained copies of city attorney Suzanne Fasing and Judge John Kane's order about the release of excessive-force complaints in the James Moore case. See them below, or access the Fasing letter by clicking here, and the Kane order by clicking here.
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