From [WashPost] The case against a white police officer who assaulted a black motorist after a traffic stop in this Cleveland suburb — a confrontation caught on cellphone video that went viral on social media — has gained new life because of a citizens’ petition with a distinctly 21st century argument.
Citing Ohio ordinances that allow individuals to seek charges against someone they’ve seen commit a crime, seven Euclid residents claim to have “witnessed” the encounter between Officer Michael Amiott and driver Richard Hubbard III by virtue of viewing a four-minute video on Facebook. Their unique argument has triggered discussion in the legal community about the role that “social media witnesses” could play in such cases.
“It used to just be the police officer’s word against the victim’s word,” notes lead petitioner Richard T. Montgomery II. “Now, in the age of cellphone videos and social media, we as a community have the opportunity to participate in ensuring police accountability.”
The racially and economically diverse group scored its first victory in late December when a municipal judge responded to its request by requiring the Cuyahoga County prosecutor to investigate Amiott for felonious assault during the August 2017 traffic stop.
The cellphone video, which has more than 11 million views on Facebook, shows the officer repeatedly punching Hubbard’s head and hitting his head on pavement as the 25-year-old man lay in the street. Separate video from a police cruiser’s dash cam shows Amiott wrestling Hubbard to the ground moments after he was ordered out of his car for a suspended driver’s license.
The initial statement from police in the Cleveland suburb of Euclid said Richard Hubbard III, who was pulled over for not stopping behind the white stop line at the intersection [a bullshit stop - white media, such as the Washington Post say the stop was “based on suspicion of having a suspended driver's license”. Listen to the dashcam - the cop explains the stop. This stop probably violates the 4th Amendment- as this kind of stop is probably rarely made of white travelers in Euclid and the white line is not clearly marked due to the condition of the street. Stupid racist suspect journalists usually ignore the 4th Amendment whenever non-whites are involved.] had refused Officer Michael Amiott's orders to "face away" after getting out of his car Aug. 12 and then began resisting. But the dashcam video obtained shows Amiott not giving Hubbard a chance or adequate space to comply.
The dashcam video shows Amiott immediately began to clutch his service weapon upon talking to the Black couple in the car. The conversation became contentious when Hubbard inquired as to why he was pulled over. Hubbard asked for an explanation as to what exactly stop bar infraction entails, But Amiott did not explain the relevant facts to Plaintiffs at that time. According the civil lawsuit “Hubbard grew apprehensive upon not receiving an adequate explanation, and suspected that he had been racially profiled. Amiott merely responded that his partner called them out.” The complaint explains;
‘Amiott then asked Hubbard to whom was the vehicle registered, and whether or not he had any warrants. At this time, Tirado attempted to tender her registration, proof of insurance, as well as her license to Amiott. Hubbard also tried to give Amiott paperwork showing he had no warrants and had taken care of a prior Driving Under Suspension fine. Nevertheless, despite his inquiries into these subjects, Amiott did not even look at the documentation tendered in an effort to fully comply with the cop’s requests.
Officer Amiott then instructed Hubbard to turn off the car engine, and he complied with this request immediately. Next, Amiott asked Hubbard to hand him the car keys. At this point, Hubbard again asks where was he supposed to stop regarding the stop bar, and for what purpose Amiott required the keys to automobile.
Without any further explanation, Amiott sternly asks Hubbard to hand him the keys. Hubbard immediately complied with this second request for the car keys. Amiott then asked Hubbard for his drivers’ license. Hubbard reached into his pocket, and pulled out some cash money, and handed it over to Tirado for safe-keeping. Cops Amiott and Gilmer both remarked about the size of the bankroll. Hubbard then presented his state identification credentials to Amiott, who placed them on the roof of the vehicle.
Amiott next asked Plaintiff Hubbard to “step out,” with no explanation as to the reason for the request. Hubbard again complies, and unlocks the door. As Hubbard opened the car door and began to step out of the vehicle as instructed, Officer Amiott did not move away from the vehicle at all, depriving Plaintiff Hubbard of the required space to exit, and turn around, without making contact with Defendant Amiott’s body.
As Hubbard was beginning to exit the car, Amiott told him to “face away” from him. Hubbard then promptly exited the vehicle; his face only mere inches away from Amiott, due to the fact that Amiott had never taken a step away from the vehicle door to give him any space. Less than one second after his first verbal command, Amiott again orders Hubbard to “face away.” Again, Hubbard complies with this request, and begins to turn around away from Amiott.
Before Hubbard could finish turning, Amiott forcefully pushed him against the car, causing him to lose his balance, with Hubbard’s momentum carrying him backward. Amiott then grabbed Hubbard’s neck in a clench, and attempted to trip him.
As Hubbard attempted to sturdy himself in the midst of this violent assault, Amiott began to knee and kick Hubbard repeatedly. Hubbard tried to avoid Defendant Amiott’s strikes, and pleaded with him to stop his assault, and take him into custody peacefully. Nevertheless, Officer Amiott would not relent, and continued striking Plaintiff Hubbard, and attempting to wrestle him to the ground. At this point the other white cop runs over to the struggle, and immediately deploys his taser on Hubbard, while Officer Amiott was still clenching Hubbard. As a result, both Hubbard and Amiott were thrown to the ground. Hubbard screamed in agony as a result of having been tasered. Officer Gilmer then proceeded to achieve a side-mount position upon Hubbard, as he continued to scream and writhe in pain from the taser. Amiott then commenced a violent series of punches to Hubbard’s head and face, as Gilmer continued to hold him down.
Amiott advanced his position to achieve a full mount upon Hubbard; pinning his legs between his own, and rendering him unable to turn over onto his stomach. Amiott then escalated his attack by lifting Hubbard’s head, and violently slamming his skull against the pavement with the full weight of his body.
Amiott remained silent during his assault upon Hubbard. Amiott did not order him to roll over, provide any other directive to allow Hubbard a reprieve from his beating, or take any measure whatsoever to de-escalate the situation. Amiott then commenced to choking Hubbard with his arms. At this point, cop Gilmer began patting Defendant Amiott on the back. Hubbard never attempted to strike, or otherwise harm the white Officers.
Other white Euclid Police Officers, including Officer Pavkov, began to arrive at the scene. Pavkov kneed Plaintiff Hubbard in the head, and then assisted in wrenching Hubbard’s arm behind his back causing significant pain to his shoulder. The Officers finally hand-cuffed Plaintiff Hubbard.
Amiott finally noticed that Tirado was recording the arrest. Amiott then ordered Pavkov to arrest her. As Pavkov proceeded towards Tirado, she took several steps away from the scene, and placed her hands in the air. Pavkov then grabbed Tirado’s arms, pushed her down to the ground, and handcuffed her. She asked why she was being arrested, and Pavkov informed her she was being arrested for disorderly conduct based on her shouting at the officers. [MORE]
Amiott was hired by the Euclid Police Department in September 2014. He was reprimanded for hitting a driver with a handgun, mishandling evidence, losing his temper in front of his commanding officer and being involved in two crashes in police vehicles, according to personnel files released Friday.
Before Euclid, Amiott was an officer in Mentor, east of Cleveland. Amiott resigned in April 2014 after an internal investigation concluded he had lied to other officers when explaining why he stopped a man for a suspended driver's license.
Amiott was fired two months later for excessive force. But emotions flared anew this October when the unwanted public servant was rehired following an arbitrator’s ruling in his favor. The ensuing outcry included the NAACP announcing a travel advisory to people of color who might be driving through Euclid.
The legal issues raised by the citizens’ petition and the prospect of witnesses via social media are largely untested.
In his ruling referring the matter to the county prosecutor, Euclid Municipal Judge Patrick Gallagher did point out that the petitioners fail to claim any “personal knowledge of Mr. Hubbard’s injuries.” Had they done so, he could have taken more drastic action, the judge seemed to imply. Under Ohio law, Gallagher also could have used the citizens’ petition to circumvent the prosecutor’s office and issue an arrest warrant for Amiott.
Nearly a dozen other states also allow private citizens to initiate criminal charges — including Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Idaho.
In all but one, however, the decision to actually file criminal charges is left to a prosecutor or grand jury. The exception is South Carolina, where police also have that power.
The Euclid petition should not factor into the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s decision to file charges against Amiott, in Stoughton’s view, though he thinks the community should play a role in holding police accountable.
“A community may be limited in what they can do in respect to an individual case,” he said, but whether through “public pressure or the ballot box, there’s still a lot of democratic power that a community can yield.”
The petitioners in Euclid are pursuing every avenue. Following a recent city council meeting, Montgomery pressed council member Daryl Langman for a resolution that would compel the mayor to release data on individual officers’ arrest rates by race.
“Part of how a Michael Amiott becomes a Michael Amiott is there’s no external review by city council,” he told Langman.
No resolution is necessary, Langman replied. “We just need to get five council people to say, ‘Mayor, we want to see these kinds of reports.’