So there’s been quite a bit of discusion around the Internet on the Dymond Milburn case since I posted on this Houston Press story this afternoon. I guess if you aren’t used to these sorts of stories, it can seem a little implausible. Which is why more than a few commenters at various sites have raised the possibility that the whole thing is a hoax. If it is, it’s quite a hoax. Like, on a Tawana Brawley scale.
So let’s clarify some misconceptions…
It’s all a hoax.
The lawsuit is very real. It was filed in August of this year. Here’s a write-up from the Courthouse News Service from the day it was filed. Here’s a copy (pdf) of the complaint. If this is a hoax, Milburn, her family, and her attorney are going to great lengths to pull it off. Yes, her complaint likely paints what happened in a light quite favorable to her, and unfavorable to the police. But I’d be very surprised if the major components of the complaint weren’t true.
This happened two years ago. Why are you posting about it now?
The incident happened in August 2006. The lawsuit was filed in August of this year. Milburn’s attorney tipped off Houston Press reporter Chris Vogel, who wrote about the case yesterday. I saw Vogel’s story, and blogged about the case today.
This is just one version of events, from Milburn’s lawyer.
Yes, and I made that clear in the post. After I put up the post and talked to Vogel on the phone, he posted a response from the police officers’ lawyer, William Helfand. You can read that here.
Here’s what isn’t in dispute: Milburn was wrongly targeted during a prostitution raid. The police were looking for white prostitutes. Milburn is black. She was apprehended by plain-clothes narcotics officers who emerged from a van as she stood outside her home. She resisted. The police have acknowledged they targeted the wrong house. Three weeks later, Milburn was arrested at her school, in front of her classmates, for “assaulting a public official.” At some point, her father was arrested on a similar charge. The judge declared a mistrial on the first day of Milburn’s trial. According to Vogel, she’s scheduled to be tried again in February.
Milburn and her family are now suing the police officers who apprehended her. They claim she was severely beaten during the raid. According to the compliant, two hours after the raid, Milburn’s parents took her to a hospital, where doctors documented a host of nasty injuries. I haven’t seen documentation of the hospital stay or the injuries, but if that’s all included in the complaint, I would assume it exists.
I called the Galveston police department and the Galveston district attorney’s office for comment. I haven’t yet heard back from either.
Milburn has profiles on social networking sites that say she’s 17. That means she would have been 15 at the time of the raid, not 12.
I’m not linking to a minor’s social networking page, particularly a minor who may have been the victim of abuse. She doesn’t need a bunch of crazies trying to contact her. Use Google, or check the comments if you’re interested, but yes, she does state in one of her profiles that she’s 17. My guess is that Milburn exaggerated her age, as teenage girls sometimes do on the Internet. This high school track and field results page, found by a commenter, says she was born in 1993. If her birthday falls later in the year than August, she would have been 12 at the time of the raid, as indicated in the complaint.
If it’s true, why hasn’t an outrageous story like this been picked up by the national media?
Why don’t 90 percent of the abuses of power we look at on this site get covered by the national media? The lawsuit was filed in August of an election year. A single instance of police misconduct in Galveston at that time would have quite a few other stories to compete with. As to why the story wasn’t covered in 2006, Vogel tells me the raid took place in a low-income neighborhood. I would guess that after a traumatic experience like that, and after the seemingly retributive arrest, the family was either too frightened to take their story to the media, or couldn’t get anyone to listen when they did.
I’ll post more information on this case as I learn of it.