Wrong Guy

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Back to Portland.

The City Council approved a $250,000 settlement Wednesday to a man mistaken by police as a tagger and was hit with a stun gun over and over.

A jury wanted the city to pay for a police officer using excessive force.

Police took down Dan Halsted while he was just innocently walking home. The officer stunned Halsted five times with a Taser in the back because he thought he sprayed some graffiti.

Halsted was tackled by a Portland police officer in the Northeast Portland neighborhood of Sullivan’s Gulch four years ago.

“I was walking home and all of a sudden a flashlight came on in my eyes and I stopped, and I heard a voice say, ‘Get him!’ And I heard footsteps coming at me, so I turned and I ran.”

In the pitch dark, Halsted thought he was being jumped.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “I was screaming to call the police the whole time, and I didn’t realize this was the police because they never identified themselves at all.”

Police had mistaken Halsted for a tagger who hit a nearby building.

“The arresting officer in his police report, he made up a whole other story and said that I had been running down the street with a couple other people.”

That’s the same thing the officer testified to in court when Halsted sued. In reality Halsted had been with friends at the Rose and Thistle Restaurant and was never charged with any crime.

The unsettling implication lurking beneath this story is that if Halsted had been spraying graffiti, this sort of treatment would have been perfectly appropriate. Also, I love this . . .

During the trial, the city’s attorney tried to use Halsted’s classic kung fu film collection against him, saying it proved he was violent.

Of course, taxpayers will pay the award. And as far as I can tell, Officer Benjamin J. Davidson is still on the police force. (The article above doesn’t mention his name.)

I was surprised to learn that under Oregon law, 60 percent of punitive damages awarded in suits like this go not to the brutality vicitim, but to a fund for crime victims. And another 10 percent goes to . . . a fund for Oregon state courts. Really.

But given that Halsted won in federal court, it isn’t clear to me that Oregon state law would apply to this case. Anyone know?

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44 Responses to “Wrong Guy”

  1. #1 |  picachu | 

    “I was surprised to learn that under Oregon law, 60 percent of punitive damages awarded in suits like this go not to the brutality vicitim, but to a fund for crime victims. And another 10 percent goes to . . . a fund for Oregon state courts. Really.”

    WTF???? Then what’s the point of sueing?

  2. #2 |  NL_ | 

    So that means he gets $75k and the state kicks back 70% to its own purposes. At least he’s eligible to avoid federal income tax on the $75k, as long as the settlement allocated the money to his physical injuries and not to his civil rights. IRC § 104.

  3. #3 |  Fascist Nation | 

    And you can bet the jury never knows about 70% of what they award goes somewhere else (of course the lawyer justly gets at least 33% (of gross?=victim gets a bill for the balance) plus expenses).

    I’m guessing in this instance this outrageous 70% cut does not apply, but you can bet if Oregon does it our wonderful other 49 labs of government enact similar piece of da action.

  4. #4 |  Fascist Nation | 

    Also, what is with the damage to the tops of his hands…stomped on to teach him a lesson about spraying graffiti?

    The police are evil. Evil!

  5. #5 |  30 year lawyer | 

    Thugs in blue.
    It took me 20 years of close contact to lose all respect for all of them.
    Class 1: the actual thugs (30%).
    Class: 2 Those (everyone else) who know but don’t see and don’t tell. These, if civilians, would be called acompliaces.

  6. #6 |  Scott Lazarowitz | 

    One of these days, people will finally wake up and smell the coffee, and realize that government-monopolized community policing and security doesn’t work.

    Monopolists are not accountable, in any field of endeavor. The government police monopolists are allowed to be above the law, so they themselves get away with their crimes.

    Stop worshiping the State. America is now a banana republic police state now, with the criminals in charge because of the submissive, subservient approval and consent that the masses give to the neanderthals, barbarians, and dirtbags who rule over us, and who rule the streets.

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/hoppe/hoppe26.1.html

  7. #7 |  Vladimir | 

    Regarding your state law question: I have not looked in to, and make no claims about, this case. As a general matter, any given court may apply different laws, depending on the case. So federal courts apply federal law, state law, japanese law, etc. You cannot determine which law applies from the forum of a lawsuit, without knowing more about the claim.

  8. #8 |  Caleb | 

    But given that Halsted won in federal court, it isn’t clear to me that Oregon state law would apply to this case. Anyone know?

    Randy,a general rule of thumb is that federal courts apply the substantive law of the forum state, but follow federal procedure. So it depends on whether the courts construe the law as substantive or procedural. Telling the difference between the two is tricky, but there’s a presumption of deference to state law unless there is a clear federal interest in applying federal law.

    A quick search scared up a 9th Cir. case, Patton v. Target Corp., which contained this quote: “The statute [§ 31.735] applies to cases decided under Oregon law in federal court. DeMendoza v. Huffman, 51 P.3d 1232, 1235-37 (Or.2002).”

    So I’m guessing the statute applies.

    On a side note, I had no idea laws like this existed. I find them simply disgusting.

  9. #9 |  SPO | 

    One wonders, of course, when anyone is going to ask judges to start tossing charges against ordinary citizens based on the fact that they don’t prosecute cops for this crap. Would be funny to see.

  10. #10 |  Brian | 

    While I don’t necessarily agree with the split judgments law I thought a couple points should be made to clarify it. First, the split applies only to punitive damages, not compensatory damages. Typically a plaintiff is awarded compensatory damages to, in theory anyway, compensate them for actual losses and injuries. Punitive damages, by their name, are intended to punish the defendant for particularly egregious acts and are added on top of compensatory damages.

    The motivation behind the split punitive damages laws was the perception that juries have been massively over-awarding punitive damages against deep-pocket defendants. The idea is that if punitive damages are really a form of punishment and deterrence then it isn’t necessary that the plaintiff should receive the entire windfall. They should receive enough to still serve as an incentive to bring suit when justified, but the incentive to bring suit in hopes of cashing in on a massive punitive damages judgement would be reduced by such laws. Whether a good idea or not, that is the theory behind the laws.

    As for this case, an earlier story said a jury had awarded $125,000 in punitive damages, $75,000 in non-economic (compensatory) damages and $6400 in medical costs. Not sure why it’s called a settlement in the story above when it seems the case went to a jury and was decided already, or where the extra money is going (would the city agree to “settle” the case for more than the jury already awarded??) but the split should apply, if it does, only to the $125,000 in punitive damages.

    http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2012/03/federal_jury_rules_against_por.html

  11. #11 |  Griffin3 | 

    Something is missing here. How did they know about his “classic kung fu” collection? They ambush him on the street, take him in to jail, I assume, and interrogate him … and then somehow get a warrant and search his entire house, making inventory of everything, including his VCR/DVD collection?

  12. #12 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    “During the trial, the city’s attorney tried to use Halsted’s classic kung fu film collection against him, saying it proved he was violent.”

    Amazing what they will try to hold against you. When science fiction
    writer Peter Watts faced felony charges in Michigan for not licking boots quickly enough at the border they were going to throw another year at him because years prior he got into a verbal spat with a bike cop. In Canada, another friggin country.

  13. #13 |  Mannie | 

    “I was surprised to learn that under Oregon law, 60 percent of punitive damages awarded in suits like this go not to the brutality vicitim, but to a fund for crime victims. And another 10 percent goes to . . . a fund for Oregon state courts. Really.”

    WTF???? Then what’s the point of sueing?

    I think that’s a good feature. Punitive damages are not supposed to be there to enrich the victim, but to deter bad behavior. The victim doesn’t deserve them.

    I think, under Federal law, punitive damages are rare, so that whole award may be actual damages. Those are to make the victim whole. Or as whole as money can.

  14. #14 |  R E | 

    This I dont get. why such travesties are tolerated in a place like Portland. If a dirty cop does something like this to me or mine, it will be the last time they do.

    Later discovered a Kung Fu collection? Thats laughable.

    Well at least Portland has a candidate that promises to regulate the cops.

  15. #15 |  Ted S. | 

    Appropriate punitive damages here wouldn’t be monetary, anyhow. It would involve dragging the cops out of their houses by force, as the cops are kicking and screaming (with all of this preferably being seen by the cops’ minor children) as the house is auctioned off to pay the compensatory damages.

  16. #16 |  Wrong Guy | The Agitator | Krispy Hut | 

    [...] Taken from: Wrong Guy | The Agitator [...]

  17. #17 |  pj | 

    Laws that supersede or limit a jury decision or a judge’s ruling are useless. Either agree to a courtroom outcome or not. And the lawyer gets 33% of $250,000, putting plaintiff in the red . Nice deal.

  18. #18 |  CB | 

    >I was surprised to learn that under Oregon law, 60 percent of
    >punitive damages awarded in suits like this go not to the brutality
    >vicitim, but to a fund for crime victims. And another 10 percent
    >goes to . . . a fund for Oregon state courts. Really.

    I was unaware of this too, but it makes sense. Gotta keep the money in the system (in the law industry)!

  19. #19 |  StrangeOne | 

    If punitive damages were an actual thing the money would come from the salaries and pensions of the cops who abused him. As it stands they are more of a concession in the sense that the state throws out some large numbers to placate the victim. Of course they then turn around and re-appropriate the lions share of the damages back to the state itself, because clearly the state deserves money a jury has awarded as damages for so bravely admitting fault and doing absolutely fuck-all to prevent it happening again or punish the actual bad actors.

    House always wins.

    Also I can’t help but appreciate the irony that he was calling out for the police while the police were beating him. In my mind there’s no better illustration of huge difference between the public perception of the police and their actual nature.

  20. #20 |  Penultimate Post | 

    [...] http://www.theagitator.com/2012/04/28/wrong-guy/ [...]

  21. #21 |  picachu | 

    StrangeOne “Also I can’t help but appreciate the irony that he was calling out for the police while the police were beating him. In my mind there’s no better illustration of huge difference between the public perception of the police and their actual nature.”

    Brilliant!

  22. #22 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    I was surprised to learn that under Oregon law, 60 percent of punitive damages awarded in suits like this go not to the brutality vicitim, but to a fund for crime victims.

    Remember there’s a distinction between compensatory damages (money award to the plaintiff to compensate them for some wrong done them) and punitive damages (money taken from the defendant to punish them from bad behavior). If this were a lawsuit between two private parties, I can see the argument that the punitive damages are strictly owed to the plaintiff and should be treated more like a fine. It only becomes a problem in this case because the state is the defendant.

  23. #23 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    Aren’t strictly owed to the plaintiff, even.

  24. #24 |  Jack Dempsey | 

    10 years ago that could have been me. I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked home from the Rose and Thistle at 1:30am. Portland PD sucks, hands down.

  25. #25 |  unfavourable odds | 

    If the police officer testified to this lie, doesn’t this mean he committed perjury? Why isn’t the city attorney prosecuting that officer for that crime? Oh that’s right, when a policeman commits a crime, it’s nevermind.

  26. #26 |  Onlooker | 

    “One of these days, people will finally wake up and smell the coffee, and realize that government-monopolized community policing and security doesn’t work. ”

    Don’t hold your breath! I wish so too, but alas…

  27. #27 |  Rojo | 

    This is my neighborhood. Sweet. Glad to know my local cops are doing such a smashing job.

  28. #28 |  Kevin | 

    Radley wrote:

    And another 10 percent goes to . . . a fund for Oregon state courts. Really.

    To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, the police state is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding police state.

  29. #29 |  derfel cadarn | 

    It certainly appears that in Oregon their is very little law and even less justice. Asset forfeiture on police brutality settlements. Talk about the fix being in. How does anyone live in this place? This is egregious that I am ashamed for them.

  30. #30 |  James Sr | 

    But given that Halsted won in federal court, it isn’t clear to me that Oregon state law would apply to this case. Anyone know?

    You should find your answer in the case below in the affirmative.

    http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/Publications/S057752.htm

    JAMES PATTON,
    Plaintiff,
    v.
    TARGET CORPORATION,
    Defendant,
    v.
    STATE OF OREGON,
    Plaintiff-Intervenor.

  31. #31 |  Andrew Roth | 

    Northeast Portland is also where a bunch of beat cops waged a successful war of attrition against the rookie who reported them to the brass for shoplifting. Radley covered the case a few months ago. The rookie, Lindsay Hunt, resigned in exasperation because her colleagues had turned on her and the brass was either unable or unwilling to adequately discipline the miscreants.

    It’s telling that her reporting a practice of misdemeanor thefts while on duty became known in Northeast as “pulling a Lindsay.” Reasonable, decent people would be ashamed if they were caught stealing from convenience stores, and would either apologize or lay really low. Only an arrogant bastard would blame his accuser and attempt to shame her in such a case.

    Based on these cases, I’d say PPB’s Northeast patrol division is rotten. At first glance, it looks like a sectoral problem, since I haven’t heard of any similar cases from other sectors of the city, but it could well pervade the whole city.

    Does anyone have a better idea of how widely this rot has spread within the Portland Police Bureau?

  32. #32 |  LTMC | 

    Radley,

    We need to know more about the cause of action that was brought by Dan Halsted in order to know whether Oregon law applies to the damages award. If it’s a § 1983 claim, then Oregon law is unlikely to control in federal court because he’s pursuing a federal claim in federal court. § 1983 is a federal right with well-established federal Rules of Decision, meaning the federal Rules of Decision Act would not be implicated. Also, Oregon’s Punitive damage split (to the best of my knowledge) only applies to state proceedings. However, Punitive damages are *not* allowed against a municipality under § 1983. So if the jury awarded punitive damages, he probably sued the officers in their individual capacity, and they were indemnified by the city.

    None of this analysis holds, however, if he pursued a state cause of action, meaning of course, that state Rules of Decision would apply. However, at common law and under the 11th Amendment, states have sovereign immunity, and thus can’t be sued by their own citizens without their consent. A quick glance at Oregon’s Code, I see that under Title 3, ch. 31, § 31.200 et seq., there is no cause of action provided against the state, municipalities, or its agents. Under § 31.900 et seq. of the same Title & chapter, under the heading “abolished common law actions,” I see no mention of sovereign immunity. So based on my cursory review of the statutes, I’m assuming this must have been a § 1983 claim, and since it was brought in federal court, I’m 99% sure the Oregon punitive damage split law does not apply.

  33. #33 |  winston smith | 

    well, i missed this one in my weekly report of criminal cops.

    http://www.blog2.tshirt-doctor.com/?p=34630

  34. #34 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    “During the trial, the city’s attorney tried to use Halsted’s classic kung fu film collection against him, saying it proved he was violent.”

    Oh my. Let’s see. I liked the IP Man movies, not to mention Bruce Lee flicks. I trained in an Israeli self-defense course for a year and I’ve done a lot of martial arts research. I believe that people have the right to defend themselves from illegal battery, no matter who the batterer is. Holy shit, am I a criminal now? Maybe I should run for the border. My time may be coming!

  35. #35 |  KPRyan | 

    StrangeOne above is correct.

    If ‘Punative Damages’ were in fact, punative; they would come out of the salaries of the cops who did the beating and (IMHO) a portion should come out of the Chief’s salary (it is on his or her watch that this occurred) and perhaps a portion should come out of the entire yearly budget for police in Portland (and every other juristiction).

    That way, the system would be appropriately punished. And those in charge would actually not want to see more cases like these and instead train their cops not to act like a street gang.

    But of course nothing makes sense in America as this country (and the world) is really managed by a coterie that has nothing to do with the boobs we send to D.C.

  36. #36 |  Bergman | 

    If possession of classic kung fu movies is evidence of a tendency towards violence, then possession of real weapons (such as the police have) would be evidence of far worse.

  37. #37 |  KristenS | 

    @Andrew Roth – my suggestion would be to spend some time reading this web site. After a few hours you’ll come to the realization that the Northeast Portland police are hardly unique and that every single police department in the country is rotten to the core.

  38. #38 |  Dave Mowers | 

    Hi citizen! We’ll enable you to sue police who brutalize you but only on the condition that attorneys running a fund get to keep most of the award under the guise of helping people…really just helping lawyers make more money but hey, you feel better off right?

    The Legal system is the latest form of priesthood and lawyers are here to steal as much of the money pot from society as they can.

  39. #39 |  Cbalducc | 

    I don’t think these financial settlements solve the problem of out-of-control police.

  40. #40 |  Mike Suttles | 

    He’s lucky; Portland cops shoot first, aim later. Or just shoot you in the back with an assault rifle.

  41. #41 |  Militant Libertarian » Wrong Guy | 

    [...] Posted: May 8th, 2012 by Militant Libertarian The Agitator [...]

  42. #42 |  Street Art | 

    It’s lucky this guy came out this alive!

  43. #43 |  FreeWestRadio.com » Blog Archive » Wrong Guy | 

    [...] The Agitator [...]

  44. #44 |  Kevin Banister | 

    We need to understand why people do this.. I really dont get it… it must be fear that makes police just fire without thinking!

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