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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

City Wrongfully Arrests People To Prove A Point

The Seattle Police Department has no problem wrongfully arresting people, this point has been proven time and time again... but recently things took a turn for the worse when the city actually encouraged it's police force to wrongfully arrest nightclub employees for political gains.

The Stranger's Jonah Spangenthal-Lee details the latest developments in the case of the debacle code-named "Operation Sobering Thought" which appears to reaffirm the opinion that the city hastily and sloppily made a public spectacle of nightclub employees who were arrested in it's effort to shut down the city's nightlife... and that it wrongfully arrested and attempted to prosecute people for political gain.

Most telling is this portion of the story in this week's The Stranger Weekly:

Perhaps the most startling example of the operation's sloppiness comes from David Romano, a five-foot-eight Hispanic man who was arrested weeks after the sting for allegedly letting underage girls into Tia Lou's in Belltown. Romano got off when prosecutors realized they'd have trouble proving he was the same six-foot-two blond bouncer identified in the corresponding police report. In another case, the city attorney's office sought a year of jail time for bouncer Daniel DeLeon, charged with letting an undercover officer bring a gun into Tabella in Belltown. It took a jury just 20 minutes to find DeLeon not guilty.

Attorney Matthew Leyba represented DeLeon during his trial; he says prosecutors ignored some evidence because they were too focused on making an example of workers like his client. "In DeLeon's case, there was... some overzealous prosecution," Leyba says. "It was a waste of money [that] it had to go to trial."

Surprisingly, prosecutors seem to agree. "We were all hyped up from the chase," says Derek Smith, the city attorney's liaison to SPD's vice unit. "In the grand scheme of things, [seeking harsh sentences] was probably unwarranted under the circumstances."

The city, of course, has no remorse for putting an innocent person who wasn't even working on the night of the raids through the hardship of being publicly arrested and having to pay to defend himself against baseless charges, they never do.

And this is the point... So long as the police department and city never face consequences for wrongfully putting people through hell and having to go through the enormous debt of defending themselves in court against false charges, the city will keep on wrongfully punishing people for things they never did and continue to practice the kind of sloppy police work that harms these innocent people, and it will only get progressively worse.

We, of course, expect the city to apologize to these latest victims of false arrest, accept accountability, and pledge to make things right sometime... after hell freezes over. Until then, expect more stories like this in the near future, especially now that the city itself is encouraging officers to make false arrests when they already did that quite enough on their own before the city got into the game.

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