Friday, January 18, 2008

Utah Taser Victim Jared Massey Files A Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit Against UHP Trooper John Gardner

In what may turn out to be an ill-advised move in terms of public relations, Utah Taser victim Jared Massey has filed a Federal lawsuit against Utah Highway Patrol Trooper John Gardner over Gardner's Tasering of Massey near Vernal, Utah back in September 2007. Media reports posted January 18th, 2008 by the Deseret Morning News, the Salt Lake Tribune, and aired by KSL Channel 5 and KTVX Channel 4 and KUTV Channel 2.

Click HERE to review all previous posts on this issue.

The lawsuit was filed Friday afternoon January 18th in U.S. District Court against UHP Trooper John Gardner, who pulled Jared Massey over for speeding on September 14th, 2007 on U.S. 40 near Vernal. It accuses him of excessive force and seeks an unnamed amount in damages. No other person or agency is named in the suit.

In a November 27th letter filed with the lawsuit, Massey called for Gardner to be "justly punished" by the UHP. "I also request that those who have participated in the cover-up of this misconduct to be disciplined," he wrote, "and that other actions be taken to assure the public that this type of abuse by a highway patrol officer will not be allowed to occur and will not be covered up if it does occur in the future." This implies one of the reasons he filed the suit is because he fears that John Gardner will be let off the hook altogether. Gardner was relieved of duty for a while, but it was a paid absence.

Alone amongst the five local media outlets previously identified, the Deseret Morning News revealed considerable detail about the suit documents.

"There was no need for Gardner to Taser Massey because Massey was non-violent, not threatening in any way, not fleeing and not resisting arrest," the lawsuit states. Here's an excerpt from the Deseret News report further describing the contents of the document.

In a version of the infamous traffic stop described in court papers, Massey disagreed that he was speeding, but wound up with a citation anyway. He refused to sign it because he wanted to see the speed limit sign. "Signing a citation is not required under Utah law," Massey's lawyer Robert Sykes wrote in the lawsuit. "Gardner could have left the citation with Massey with the exact same effect as having Massey sign it."

Instead, Massey was ordered to exit to the vehicle, "as if to allow Massey to show him what he meant," the lawsuit said. Gardner walked to his cruiser as Massey left his SUV. "Gardner never advised Massey, prior to Massey's exiting the vehicle, that he was under arrest, or that Gardner intended to put Massey under arrest after he exited the vehicle," Sykes wrote. "After Massey exited the vehicle, he walked calmly toward the officer's cruiser, pointing to the sign down the road with his left hand, and stating that he did not think he had been speeding prior to the 40 mph sign. While Massey was pointing forward with his left hand, his right hand was at his side, with the thumb hooked inside of his right pant pocket, but the right hand outside the pocket."

The lawsuit accuses Gardner of "belligerently" demanding that Massey turn around and put his hands behind his back. On the dash-cam tape, Massey is heard asking "what's wrong with you?" As he walked back toward his SUV, Massey was Tasered. He shrieks and then falls back onto the roadway. "This stunned Massey, who fell hard on to the highway, screaming in pain, while Trooper Gardner tauntingly said 'hurts doesn't it?'" Sykes wrote. "Massey struck his head very hard on the pavement, which was due to the fact that the Taser causes a complete loss of the ability to maintain muscle control, causing an individual to drop like a free weight."

The lawsuit accuses Gardner of chiding him, then threatening Massey's wife if she didn't get back in the SUV. After he was handcuffed and arrested, Sykes accuses Gardner of lying to another officer who arrived on scene. "Trooper Gardner falsely told this officer that he warned Massey that he was going to be arrested and Tasered if he did not comply with his requests," he wrote.

UHP spokesman Jeff Nigbur told the Deseret Morning News they were not directly commenting on the lawsuit. UHP has consistently refused to make Trooper Gardner available for interviews. An initial Department of Public Safety investigation concluded that Gardner was justified in using the Taser; an internal affairs investigation is wrapping up. In addition, the Attorney General's office is pursuing its own investigation, although the integrity of the Attorney General's office may be somewhat compromised by the recent revelation that Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has been taking gifts from lobbyists (legal according to lax Utah law, but ethically questionable).

Massey declined to comment on the lawsuit when contacted by the Deseret Morning News on Friday January 18th. In past interviews, he has said he didn't want to sue but wanted the trooper's superiors to decide if the conduct was appropriate. In November 2007, frustrated that authorities were taking too long to investigate his complaint, Massey had the dash-cam recording of the traffic stop posted on YouTube in November. It became an international hit — being viewed more than 1 million times, and initially generated a wave of public sympathy for Massey. Earlier in January, Massey pleaded guilty at Uintah County Justice Court but paid a reduced fine of only $107 for simple speeding instead of the higher $232 fine for speeding in a construction zone (sounds like the judge may have also believed Trooper Gardner used excessive force and reduced the fine to reflect his thinking).

Commentary: There are two reasons I believe this suit is ill-timed and ill-advised. First, after the initial wave of outrage, public opinion has been slowly turning against Jared Massey. Comments posted to today's media reports, where applicable, show at least two-thirds or respondents now sympathize with the cop and Massey is now thought of as a spoiled brat.

Second, Massey filed this suit before the investigative process has been completed. Perhaps he wants to use the suit as a legal prod to promote more timely resolution, but he should have at least waited until the internal affairs investigation was completed. Granted, the investigation is proceeding way too slow, and should have been wrapped up months ago, but you allow the process to conclude before pursuing legal action.

As a result of his impetuousity, public opinion will turn even more pronouncedly against Massey as he will now be portrayed as an ambulance-chaser out for a fast buck and to prolong his proverbial "fifteen minutes of fame". And the perception won't be unjustified.


Anonymous said...

I have seen the video numerous times, and in any lawsuit, if I were on the jury, I would reward Massey. The cop showed in his own words that he is a liar,looking for trouble, and HAPPY to see another human being in pain.
Sue him.

Anonymous said...

Massey is going to lose. Anyone and everyone with any clue about law enforcement agrees that the moment he turned his back with his hand in his pocket while the officer was trying to arrest him, the officer was justified with his actions.

I hope the court doesn't reward stupidity.

troglydyte said...

Acting slowly by the Internal Affairs Department is typical. Like any business it is designed to discourage any lawsuit and hope the public will forget. The cop was out of line. No matter what the public thinks....refusing to sign a traffic ticket is NOT against the law much less taser worthy. The cop lost his cool. Sue away.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a lot more public support for Jared Massey than was earlier stated. In the full 30 minute version of the video the officer lied about the incident, and did not follow procedure. Massey was not acting violently towards the officer and did not deserve to have a taser use on him.

Anonymous said...

Andy didn't allow Barney to have more than one bullet (and he had to keep it in his shirt pocket) for a reason. Massey was not posing a threat. The officer overreacted. The ticket should have been given without a signature and everyone would have gone on their way. If Massey didn't show up for court a warrant would have been issued for his arrest. Justice would have been served and no one injured. Gardner was out of control. I know several wives that carry legally, and I would give Gardner a 50% chance he would have been drawn on by many of them for shooting their husbands. He didn't have to escalate the situation. His job is to diffuse. What happened to "serve and protect".

Chris in Idaho said...

I love anonymous on February 13. I hope that next time you try to reasonably explain yourself to a power hungry police officer your ass gets pulled from your vehicle and Rodney Kinged. The only stupidity is on the part of the cop. Two cops bragging about how it hurts and how tough they are. Two shitty paid cops who probably have very little education and not much to do to really protect out public in northeastern Utah just look for shit to pull with people because they have no control over anything else in their lives. Government workers, not paid much and no brains and motivation to really change that. The only control they have is their badge. Bullshit cowards if you ask me and so are you for being anonymous. I hope he loses his shitty little pension.

Anonymous said...

I hope Massey wins a huge settlement. Cops have to understand that they can't bully citizens and get away with it. To unnecessarily make Massey exit the vehicle and then claim to be scared is stupidity at its highest. Then to taser and taunt the guy just for giving the cop some lip is outrageous and un-American. The cop obviously knew he was wrong because he lied to his boss about warning Massey before tasering him. He didn't act reasonably and then he lied about it and the HP should pay. And it should make other "cowboy cops" think twice before abusing their powers.
Best of luck, Mr. Massey!

Anonymous said...

No one is required to sign a speeding ticket if they think it isn't justified. That's the law.
And so what ? The ticket doesn't have to be signed by the suspected "offender" anyway, the trooper just files it differently at the end of the day, and the "offender" is "invited" to court later, big deal...

What is very disturbing it this incident is that Jon Gardner, the trooper, doesn't enforce the law at all. He seems to have made up his own law.
1 - He seems to think signing the ticket is mandatory, and the fact Massey doesn't want to sign it seems to be his motivation to go "berserck" on Massey.
2 - He doesn't tell Massey his Miranda rights, and even worse threatens him of being tasered again if he doesn't stop asking for them... unbeleivable !

That the UHP let this Jon Garber get away with it is a disgrace.
There are always rotten apples in an organisation, everyone can understand that, but defending the rotten apples is... a disgrace.

Let's hope justice will be served in civil court.

Matty Wasario said...

Massey has no case. The officer had reasonable suspicions that he was going to flee -- Massey turned his back while being arrested. Further, the fiddling in the pocket clearly looks like a grab for a weapon.

The officer should also have arrested Mrs. Massey, because she kept getting out of the car. She could have been rummaging through the car for a weapon to use on the policeman.

Officer safety has to come first. While Massey's whiny attitude alone doesn't mean he deserves to be "Tased," his noncompliance meant there was a chance he would fight with Gardner, potentially with a weapon. There are 200 million guns in this country, and Gardner had no way of knowing if one was going to be pulled on him.

Oh, and as for public opinion: Massey is a brat. It's clear. As for filing the lawsuit early, so what. He has a right to file it at any time. The federal courts do not rely on internal investigations to make their decisions. As for the reduced charges on the speeding ticket, where you said it seemed like the judge bought his story on the excessive use of force, you apparently have no idea how the courts work. Judges don't take pity on people because they might file another lawsuit in the future.

Anonymous said...

sorry matty, the officer had no reason to act the way he did. now, i do believe massey should have just signeed the ticket and presented his case to someone that actually decides guilt and innocence and has studied law for much longer than utah police training gives you. the problems with the officers actions are that he never told massey that he was under arrest, just pulls a taser, which by an untrained person could easily be mistaken as a firearm, and starts telling him to put his hands behind his back, at that time massey became afraid for his life such as was the opinion of his wife, if you would have arrested his wife you could possibly be facing federal criminal charges. there is a reason the d.o.j. has studied this topic and has findings that taser use should be reduced and only used as part of a legitimate force continuum policy

Anonymous said...

Apparently the anonymous poster on July 4th watches the same cop shows as Massey does. There was no legal requirement for Massey to be informed of his Miranda rights. They're only required when the person is in custody (as Massey was) AND he/she is being directly interrogated about the crime/incident in which he/she is a suspect. No interrogation = no Miranda requirement. Gotta love cop shows - they make people think they know what they're talking about when in reality they have no clue whatsoever.

Patrick said...

No one respects a cop until they really need them, until you have been through it, just shut the fuck up.

Anonymous said...

F*** he police coming straight from the underground...I don't need their help, I've got my piece biotch!

Nathan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nathan said...

Massey was dumb to pace around after the trooper told him to get out of the car, and dumber not to FREEZE and listen very carefully when the trooper pulled the taser.

That said, the trooper should have lost his job and pension. The only violation Massey committed was speeding. The FIRST mention of arrest came after Massey was writhing on the ground, and Massey never made a move that looked threatening or like it would allow him to flee the scene. Cops don't get to just assume they've arrested someone once they've asked them to get out of the car. IANAL and I'm unclear on whether or not cops have to tell you what you're being charged with, but they can't assume you are reading their mind to know you're under arrest in the first place. Also, like I said the only violation committed was speeding. Cops are supposed to arrest people for committing crimes, not civil violations with citation penalties. Where was the crime? Whether the trooper was obliged to share his reason is irrelevant if he had none.

That trooper is a menace and he's probably either going to permanently injure an innocent some day or get himself killed by provoking an unnecessary violent encounter in an inestimably dangerous situation.

I like cops. They keep people safe and generally help the world be a better place. But I hate pigs. Personally, I've had more interactions with cops than with pigs and I'm quite glad of it. But pigs like this one here create a public perception of police that is very negative. He should have been punished properly by his superiors in a way that demonstrates to the public that their peace officers will not be a menace in the streets.

I had to delete and repost this comment. At first I posted it saying that I've met more pigs in uniform than police. But I thought about it and realized that really, a very few negative memories were just outshining a lot of other positive experiences. Just food for thought.

Anonymous said...

The worst part about this article was the comments, using youtube comments as a valid form of public opinion is retarded. It's obvious that this mans rights were violated and he was abused by some pig who is too caught up in the ego trip of being a crooked cop. Anyone who believes otherwise is just as psychopathic as the piece of shit pig who did this.

I'd love to be in a world where I feel easier around cops than i do genuine criminals but until than, I'll keep my hand on my gun also.later

Anonymous said...

To all L.E.Os stay safe. and the ones who arent. Stop watching TV and go off their tactics, they doin it for the camera. And wats this Miranda Crap. He didnt interrogate this guy. AGAIN i say stop watching TV no one will ever kno wat it was like out there on side the road, until you kno then comment

Anonymous said...

This is completely ridiculous and that cop deserves to be tased and have his pregnant wife yelled at. Cops are nothing but bullies with guns and it is an unconstitutional.The Founders would have labeled these wicked tyrants as a standing army exercising unconstitutional writs of assistance. This Cop deserves to be in jail. NEVER LET A COP GET AWAY WITH THIS. SUE! The ACLU is not perfect, but they will defend you for free. And YOU HAVE TO READ SOMEONE MIRANDA RIGHTS IF ARRESTING THEM. Don't you people read United States Case Law? You cannot arrest someone for this. Those officers take an oath to defend the Constitution and this act was a violation of everything this country stands for. IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING, REPORT UNCONSTITUTIONAL COPS. They are bound by the rule of law and they are employed by WE THE PEOPLE, to protect and serve, not to oppress and abuse.

Anonymous said...

We all know who won this lawsuit. However, lets put this video into perspective. First off, the Utah patrolman is a liar and an dishonest person(listen at the end). Secondly, The suspected citizen didn't do anything out of the ordinary period. Obviously this patrolman should have been terminated right away since he proved himself to be a liability to Utah taxpayer. Seriously people...dome cameras that automatically upload to a server when the driver hits a panic button its in the works fairly soon. cops worst enemy(video and audio evidence that uploads in the fly)