Las Vegas Sun

January 26, 2015

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J. Patrick Coolican:

DA’s decision not to prosecute Henderson officer will erode confidence in police

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J. Patrick Coolican

New Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson was met with an early test when confronted with whether to prosecute Sgt. Brett Seekatz, the Henderson police officer seen on video kicking a man in the head while he’s restrained.

It turns out, the man was innocent and suffering a diabetic episode, and the ugly incident cost the city of Henderson more than $250,000 in a settlement with the man and his wife.

Wolfson decided not to prosecute. I don’t envy him, having to make a tough call less than two weeks into a new job.

But his decision will further erode the community’s already flagging confidence in police agencies while stoking a long-held belief that there are two sets of rules, one for police officers who kick people in the head and another for the rest of us.

Here was Wolfson’s first rationale, to the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “I’m troubled by the conduct that was displayed in the video ... but I don’t think it’s in the community’s best interest to file a charge because it’s so long after the incident.” Whatever that means.

Later, in a tough interview with my colleague Jon Ralston on “Face to Face,” Wolfson fleshed out his answer. He said he was “equally as troubled” and “shocked” as the rest of us by the kicking in the head.

He noted that the statute of limitations on a misdemeanor battery charge had passed, making a prosecution on that charge impossible.

As for a felony charge, Wolfson said, “I have to feel comfortable that I can prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” he said.

Fair enough.

He pointed to previous cases of alleged police brutality in Southern Nevada in which juries didn’t convict. In one case he was the defense lawyer for a police officer.

(Yes, in private practice he defended police officers.)

Wolfson told Ralston he consulted with “senior lawyers” in the office to make his decision. Let’s not forget, these senior lawyers all recently worked for Wolfson’s predecessor as district attorney, David Roger, who is now the attorney for the Las Vegas Police Protective Association. That’s the police union.

Anyway, just because juries haven’t convicted police officers accused of police brutality, does that mean we’ll never bring charges against an officer ever again? What message does that send?

Also, unlike the other cases, this has video evidence.

Wolfson said he could prove the kicking in the head but not criminal intent. Apparently sometimes there are perfectly valid and legal reasons to kick someone in the head. I learn something new every day.

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  1. If strolling up to an obviously-restrained, non-violent man in diabetic shock and kicking him multiple times in his head with your boot doesn't rate prosecution, exactly what does?
    Erode confidence? I'd say it destroys confidence.
    And short of prosecuting the officer, why does he still wear a badge and a gun? Why is he still a supervisor with the rank of sergeant? I thought supervisors were supposed to lead by example.
    There's just nothing right about this situation.

  2. just curious --- if the guy were drunk would it of been okay to kick him in the head 5 times?

  3. In the video of the incident one of the officers yells "Stop resisting, MF (expletive)". It seems to me that in an arrest situation the correct command is "Stop resisting". The addition of the expletive just shows that you're angry and have lost control.

    I can certainly understand that the police did not realize the guy was diabetic at first - but by the time he was kicked in the head he was already controlled and restrained. It seemed like much more of a "get back at him" kind of thing than any type of control tactic.

    Seems to me that would be criminal intent... but I'm not a DA I guess.

    Situations like this make it very hard on the good cops trying to do a dangerous job professionally and ethically.

  4. So - keep these incidents secret until the statute of limitations has passed.

    Is this the new immunity plea? Those that kept it secret made a bundle of cash, soaking the taxpayer with buyouts, cash rich retirements and and injury payouts. No prosecution for them either. Sounds like a mafia maneuver.

  5. "But his decision will further erode the community's already flagging confidence in police agencies while stoking a long-held belief that there are two sets of rules, one for police officers who kick people in the head and another for the rest of us."

    Coolican -- "erode" and "flagging" are far too mild as terms to describe public confidence in our police and prosecutors. The accurate terms aren't allowed here.

    You're definitely right on with "two sets of rules." To put it mildly, our new DA just acknowledged criminal acts are above the law so long as badges are involved. In the least the DA should have taken the matter to the grand jury and let them decide whether or not to indict. And let's not forget that video was hidden all this time, as well as the presumed silence by all the other cops who piled on Greene, including the NHP trooper.

    "When a police officer is behind me in traffic, I can feel my heartbeat in my chest. Why in the world would my blood pressure and pulse go into a rapid state when I've done nothing wrong?"

    BChap -- see below. Good post, by the way.

    "just curious --- if the guy were drunk would it of been okay to kick him in the head 5 times?"

    vegas_tom -- once was too many, and all that's needed to charge, try and convict.

    "Fear is the foundation of most governments." - John Adams "Thoughts on Government" (1776)

  6. Coolican wants to deflect from the fact that it's articles such as his and the non-stop cop-bashing by the press itself that will "erode confidence" in the police. I'd trust any police officer to protect me before I would any of you nitwits! As for being angry with Wolfson. I guess you can't face the fact that you put him in office by voting in the 7 Dumbocrats on the Clark County Commission. You dorks deserve the government you vote for but it's too bad the rest of us are punished, as well!

  7. It appears Wolfson is conflict based on his past association with the Police, with former DA David Roger who now works for the association, and Wolfson's dealing with former judge Judy Glass.

    It's business as usual at the DA office. One lone voice on the Clark County Commissioners said no to Wolfson, Lawrence Weekly. Let's see if Chris G will hold true to her word in holding Wolfson accountable.

    Bottom line, Patrick, you called it correctly, this will erode confidence in the community with the DA and the police department. If Wolfson cannot answer correctly how he decided to not go after a bad police officer, than how can he (Wolfson) fairly investigate anything with the police department?

    It appears the Las Vegas community is under attack, again! If you all can remember back when Tony Splitro and his gang terrorized Las Vegas and innocent Las Vegans. Now, it appears the DA who will not prosecuted criminal activity by bad police officers. Bad police officers openly being bad. If the DA cannot stand up for Las Vegas residences, then who will? Who are the victims? Las Vegas residence are the victims! Who will protect us? People are worried about being stopped by the Henderson Police late at night.

    We have the Fire Fighters stealing overtime and sick pay from the taxpayers. Now the DA is allowing bad police officers to roam the valley terrorizing innocent people. Is the mob is running the Las Vegas government? Like the days of Tony Spiltro, out in the open.

  8. To erode confidence would mean there was confidence in the first place. Kicking an unarmed man than paying him off, shooting a unarmed Vet you trapped in his car, shooting a man coming out of COSTCO, breaking into the wrong house and killing a man in a bathroom... Yea, I would say the confidence level in the Metro cops doing the right thing is near zero.

  9. cops wouldn't get bashed in the press if they weren't bashing and killing people in real life.

  10. I always support our cops and will always give them the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. However, this was so blatant that I have to say the decision is BS and that perhaps the new DA and his staff need to resign and get some new blood in the office. Friends of friends and of past employers turned police union lawyers cannot be objective in my book.

  11. If it is now OK(unlawfully)to detain indefinitely or assassinate Americans citizens. . . why would anyone be upset about being kicked in the head?

    People need to speak up(peaceful protest)and vote, while we are still able to.

    2 sets of rules regardless of ones station and class in life simply does not work unless you agree with being held indefinitely without being charged or being murdered by YOUR government or being kicked in the head during a medical/traffic stop?

    If people don't stand up and demand change and a return to the constitutional values this republic was founded upon, then things will keep going from bad to worse until we lose all of our cherished rights that makes America the beacon of light and hope for all people to envy the world over.

    Restore the American Republic now or get use to being a new world global slave with no rights?

  12. Same as it ever was. A Roger clone.

  13. "I'd trust any police officer to protect me before I would any of you nitwits!"

    lvfacts101 -- drive around today with your cell phone in your ear, get stopped by Metro, then let's see if you maintain this opinion of those thugs with badges.

    "If it is now OK(unlawfully)to detain indefinitely or assassinate Americans citizens. . . why would anyone be upset about being kicked in the head?"

    PaulRupp -- it's scarier than that. Check out how "Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to explain how the U.S. can legally kill U.S. citizens on foreign soil"

    "No person shall ... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law ..." -- Fifth Amendment

  14. To my fellow bloggers;
    No question about it, DA Wolfson blew it with his decision not to file charges against Sgt. Head Kicker. With the majority of the community wanting prosecution, DA Wolfson could have filed the charges and justified the same day started building the gallows outside the court house for Sgt. Head Kicker. What a world class blunder. It appears the fix is in (again). One helluva precedent set for future unlawful beatings by the few unprofessional police officers in our community. I feel bad for the other officers involved in this situation, as Sgt. Head Kicker caused them to be associated and escalated this mess. Just a note, Mr. Greene is wholeheartedly deserving of his settlement, but just a little information, Mr. Greene knew ahead of time of his diabetic condition and chose to not inject his insulin when needed, chose to risk waiting to inject later at work, chose to risk driving his car and risking possibly becoming impaired and possibly putting others and himself at risk for injury or death on the road. The circumstances of NHP trying to stop him for approx. 10 minutes and 5 miles is a miracle in itself that he didn't hurt himself or someone else before eventually getting stopped, eventually physically restrained, kicked in the head, arrested and eventually afforded medical attention. If we are going to examine this situation lets examine all the facts and circumstances, before, during and after. Just an old veteran cop reflecting, Gordon Martines CURRE.ORG

  15. Comment removed by moderator. ALL CAPS

  16. "[T]urn it around, if a cop was on the ground with his hands occupied and I walked up and kicked him in the head five times would they prosecute me?" - jcorb

    No, they would not. But your family and friends would be at your funeral.

  17. Bradley,

    I think your take on the share of blame to go around is correct.

    That said, I would agree with Mr. Martines' thought in that the great majority of officers who are not involved have been painted with this brush not just now but many times in the past.

    It is because of the actions of a few that many, if not most of the populace has lost their respect for, and worse, their trust in law enforcement in the Valley. It is the responsibility and duty of every elected official as well as the departments to correct this.

  18. Maybe we should look at it like this. The officer only kicked the man in the head a few times and it didn't look like he kicked him very hard in the head. Now he could have tazed him, shot him with a bean bag, pepper sprayed him, beat him with a baton, choked him, punched him in the face and broken his camera, killed him in a bathroom or hardware store, shot him several times in his own vehicle thus killing him or just run the scofflaw over with his police cruiser. However he did kick a man in the head, and for that I am sure he is sorry.

  19. And the Hits just keep on playing...

  20. how different would this situation be if the victim was black or hispanic?

  21. Bradley,

    I wasn't as clear as I should have been. I agree completely with what you say with regards to the "code" and what factors contribute to it. (I was especially pleased to see you name the union as a factor since for me to say so would carry no weight, given my well-known position on public sector unions in general.)

    I also agree completely with you with regard to the other officers present.

    I was speaking more to the general condition of the lack of mutual respect and trust that has been created over the last few years. I am sickened by that given how I was raised.

  22. There had better be a formal, written, anouncement that puts every Law Enforcement Officer, and Citizen, ON NOTICE - that unnecessary violence of any type, from anyone, will NO LONGER BE TOLERATED!

    I'd also add, that we need to address the officers on scene that just stood-by and let one of their own abuse his authority - it's time the vast majority of good police officers start stepping up and STOPPING CRUELTY!

    I'm tired of hearing all this bogus crap about police safety being used as an excuse for violently jerking people around and slamming them to the ground - we have too many P.O.O.O.C. (Police Officers Out Of Control)!

    It doesn't even seem like a non-violent, law abiding citizen can cooperate with police here without risking their lives!

    Of course, the vast majority of the police are the best-of-the-best, we know that - but, when are the police going to start protecting us from the police?

    I'm a Disabled Veteran, and putting my hands on top of my head is easy - but, then, asking me to "GET DOWN!" is almost impossible for me to do with a bad back and bad knees! Besides, I'd never resist or escalate any situation with a police officer - so, what's the solution?

    It's just INSANE!

    This is our home - it is NOT A WARZONE!

  23. Wolfson, as a former defense attorney to law enforcement personnel, might have been better advised to recuse himself from the process. Perhaps he feels conflicted. His statement that the case lacks timeliness makes no sense, surely head kicking is not a justifiable response to restraining or subduing a falling down drunk, or anyone who appears to fit that description. Personally I would like to see either a special prosecutor on the case, or the beginnings of a recall effort against Wolfson. We the public are showing complicity by tolerating such neglectful prosecutor performance.

  24. To my fellow bloggers;
    @Bradley Chapline......Just for clarification I am still in the mix, just on medical leave. In my opinion and hindsight is always 20/20, the actions of Sgt.Head Kicker took less than 5 seconds from start to finish. (If) the officers were predisposed to stopping this type of activity they wouldn't have had time to stop it. as they themselves were involved in restraining Mr. Greene. If you are condemning all the other officers for their actions prior to Sgt.Head Kickers actions, then we could probably debate those actions for quite a while. I would love to see and examine all reports pertaining to this incident and interview all the officers involved. That is probably the only way to accurately determine who is culpable and who isn't. Just an old cop reflecting (currently 37 years and still counting),

    Gordon Martines

    p.s. I have served on the Police Officers Use of Force Board along with civilian counterparts and have personally examined situations like this before.