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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sturgis Shooting Update: Charges Dropped Against Ron Smith

Prosecutors in Meade County South Dakota announced today that they have dropped the last remaining felony charge against Detective Ron Smith, the Seattle police officer who shot a member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club in a crowded Sturgis bar in early August. The shooting occurred while Smith was off-duty and attending the motorcycle rally there as a member of a rival motorcycle club named the Iron Pigs, which consists almost exclusively of law enforcement and firefighters, and the prosecutor suggested that the Hells Angels started the fight after being provoked by the patches the Iron Pigs were wearing on their jackets.

Detective Smith had originally faced two felony charges associated with the case, a perjury charge that was dropped last week, and the assault charge that was dropped yesterday. Smith and other members of the Iron Pigs Motorcycle Club, of which Smith is a member, still face misdemeanor charges related to having concealed weapons, but I suspect these will likely be dropped due to a federal law that allows off-duty police officers to carry concealed weapons across state lines and inside areas where such weapons are normally prohibited. Smith still faces an internal police department investigation into the incident as well, but the dismissal of the felony charges makes it unlikely any discipline will be recommended.

However, as soon as the announcement was made by the press there were numerous accusations from the public of prosecutorial favoritism and biased investigatory practices on the part of the police in South Dakota since an off-duty officer, albeit from another jurisdiction, stood accused... but is this true?

While there is anecdotal evidence that such things occur, there is no evidence of this being the case at this time. Of course, nobody knows why the grand jury that heard several witness statements and reviewed video taken from the bar decided to charge Smith with assault in the first place and prosecutors have not released any specifics about the investigation which caused them to disagree with the grand jury findings... and this is a good illustration of why transparency in such cases is very important... but this is not unusual since a felony assault case is still pending against the Hells Angels member that was shot by Smith.

Ultimately, personally, I'm inclined to take Smith's word for what happened that night, and I say this for several reasons. I say this because I believe in presumed innocence and as a citizen of the US I expect to be treated as an innocent person unless I am found guilty in a court of law. Smith was not found guilty, thus if I am to ever hope to be treated as an innocent person myself, I must extend that consideration to others as well, whether they are police officers or not.

So, while comments in response to this case rage back and forth between supporters of police and those who are, perhaps with good reason, distrustful of the police and the justice system... I would ask those people to still consider walking in the shoes of the accused and think about how it would feel if people treated you as if you were guilty, even after a court found you innocent or charges were dropped against you. In other words, I recommend that people accept the findings in absence of any proof otherwise.

I personally know all too well how it feels to be falsely accused and how people still treat you like you are guilty even after the system finds otherwise, and it's a very painful experience... as I now suspect officer Smith now knows that feeling well too. So I can only hope that he and his fellow officers learn the right lessons from the experience; that all people deserve to be treated with respect even when accused of a crime, because they can never know when a mistake might have been made and the person they arrested was wrongfully accused.

Sure, that's a long shot... but to treat Detective Smith otherwise would make me a hypocrite and would be no different than supporting the mistreatment of any accused person at the hands of the police because doing so throws the concept of presumed innocence right out of the window.

After all, if you expect others to value your rights as a human being, you must also be willing to value theirs just as much.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate your fair analysis of this case

Anonymous said...

Excellent anaylsis and if I ever found myself in a situation to want someone to make a sound, fair case for me, I'd look for someone like you.

However, I personally KNOW Ron Smith. I've met him, been in his home, he's been in mine. I don't know him to be honest or trustworthy and I wouldn't leave my kids (or parents) in his care for 2 minutes. He is an unfortunate testimony to sociopathic cops with no conscience who believe the ARE the law and anyone who'd voice their opposition will be silenced. (not a doctor, was just married to a sociopathic cop for too long)
In August, my first reaction was to applaud the Grand Jury - finally someone would see through the crap that is Ron Smith. Sadly, no, he lives another day as a police officer to make honest cops look bad, and honest citizens to fear for their safety. My condolences to the people of Seattle that he continues to take your hard earned tax dollars and be such an embarrassing and tiny man.

Packratt said...

Well, I don't know much about Detective Smith, so I can't really comment on your opinion of him.

I do happen to think that my assessment is right in this case at least, at least based on the information that is just now being released about the incident that night.

Thank you for the comment, and I'm truly sorry to hear about your past experiences.

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