Silence of the Lambs

I’m not even sure how to write this post. Maybe I should wait. Maybe I should let things “sink in” a bit.

But then I remember, “Silence is Enabling.”

What I’m about to show you is something that should be trumpeted on national — make that international — news. 

Since there’s no telling how long that video will remain available for public viewing, let me give you a brief synopsis of what it shows.

A young woman went to court, along with her two-year-old daughter, on a divorce case. She was in court for just a couple of minutes. Apparently, as she was leaving, the marshal in the court could no longer contain his lust, and ordered her into a private room for — as the news reports it — “an unexplainable drug search.”

While there, the woman alleges, Marshal Ron Fox touched her buttocks, breasts, and ordered her to lift up her shirt. (An internal investigation later validated her claims.) The woman immediately went right back into the courtroom to tell the “hearing master” about what happened, and to request a female should be searching her. (The Clark County Courts telephone directory lists the “hearing master” as Family Violence Commissioner Patricia Doninger)

What happens next would be mind-blowing if it didn’t happen throughout the United States. There’s even a name for the charge: “contempt of cop,” although in this video, the cop will refer to a different non-existent charge.

At any rate, the same marshal who had just sexually assaulted the woman immediately had her arrested.

Why?

Weren’t you paying attention?

For failing to respect his authority over her and his ownership of her body by reporting the sexual assault.

I mean, how dare she? He was just exercising his privilege as one of America’s Overlords.

In the video, the woman can be seen pleading and asking why she is being arrested. The officers then coerce her into stepping up to the microphone, where she is supposed to recant what she had just said in order to avoid arrest.

Instead of recanting, the woman repeats the allegations into the microphone and is arrested.

Why the microphone was needed is anybody’s guess. If you watch the video, the “hearing master” Patricia Doninger is clearly misnamed: she is apparently neither hearing nor a master, since she refuses to look at the woman and, instead whiles away her time playing with the woman’s daughter. The woman was then arrested and taken to jail for “false allegations made against a police officer.”

Again to quote the news station:

We looked, and could find no law supporting that arrest, let alone any law allowing an alleged sexual assault victim to be arrested by the alleged assaulter.

Perhaps not wanting to risk arrest herself, the “hearing master” — as is true with most judges I’ve ever seen when courtroom deputies engage in questionable behavior — said nothing.

The woman pleads with the “hearing master,” crying and asking,

How could you do this to me? How could you watch? How can you watch?

The two-year-old, however, apparently inherited her mother’s genes.

Contreras’s two-year-old daughter confronts the officers arresting her mother.

“Sir! Don’t take my Momma! That’s my Momma! Let her alone!

But unarmed two-year-olds are easy to ignore. In fact, the two-year-old herself was taken into custody. (No word on whether she is going to be charged with aiding and abetting a sexual assault victim cop contemnor.) 

Ironically, the woman Marshal Ron Fox is alleged to have sexually assaulted was in court fighting an apparently bogus request for a protection order. (Her ex-husband filed for one, but never showed up in court. I wonder if this poor woman is going to have any problems trusting men in the future.) Ah, ain’t it grand, the way the laws can be used to abuse people?

After a six-month(!) internal affairs investigation, the sexual assaulter was finally fired. He is currently suing the County to get his job back. In a wonderful show of chutzpah, the alleged sexual assaulter is claiming that his arrest of the woman for alleging that he sexually assaulted her was a proper arrest because nobody stopped him.

“Ron Fox made a decision to arrest an individual in open court in the presence of a hearing master who was sitting there, who had control of the courtroom, and in the presence of a marshal who had superior knowledge and experience. Nobody countermanded his order, nobody sought to take control of the matter,” Fox’s attorney Adam Levine said.

Ah, yes. Silence is golden enabling.

Sexual assaults by law enforcement officers are common events throughout the United States. (It is worth noting, by the way, that most of the stories linked in that last sentence are from just the last couple months.)

According to Dale Roberts, a professor at the University of Missouri and the executive director of the Columbia Police Officers Association (which is part of the Fraternal Order of Police, one of the country’s largest police unions),

It’s called customer service!

Apparently, the marshals of Clark County are really into customer service: the assault on this young woman is not an isolated incident, especially in the particular courtroom where she appeared.

Many people are surprised and appalled to hear stories like this. But, as I noted, such assaults are not uncommon. They even happen right out in public. Under color of law.

I think the major reason for the prevalence of such acts of depravity are to be found in “the increasing professionalism of police forces.” Only, contrary to what Justice Scalia purports to believe, it’s because they’ve become professional in the same sense that mercenaries are professional: their job is to take control of a population and teach subservience to the citizenry. We’re a long cry from the days when they considered themselves public servants.

But another reason has to do with the silence of the lambs. Too few people who are abused complain. Even fewer “bystanders” do more than bystand. Whether it’s another citizen witnessing abuse by police officers on the streets, fellow captives witnessing it in jails and prisons, or judges — like our commissioner Patricia Doninger — we watch…and do nothing.

picture of lamb

Silence of the Lambs

But there is a procedure for filing complaints against police officers wherever there are police departments. Many times these are forms. In addition, people can and should complain to their elected representatives at the city, state, and federal levels.

And while it’s true that almost none of these complaints will ever result in even an iota of discipline for an offending officer, they do (usually) get recorded. When enough pile up, something will have to be done. When elected officials receive enough complaints, especially if they believe the complaints come from voters, something will be done.

I would urge everyone viewing the video above — particularly if you live in Nevada — to write to the Clark County supervisors, and let them know: the Lambs are getting tired of their silence.

H/T @Turkewitz

Update: Scott Greenfield also blogged about this incident today, noting the irreality of the attitudes and (in)actions of both Commissioner Patricia Doninger and the senior Marshal on the seen, Marshal James Kenyon.


About Rick

Rick Horowitz is a criminal defense attorney with an extreme dislike of the criminal "justice" system which routinely ignores the Constitution, the Law, and the lives it ruins.

In addition to this blog, Rick also writes at Fresno Criminal Defense.

Comments

  1. Meredith says:

    What boggles my mind is that the officer was only fired and not charged and prosecuted for a crime. Why am I not surprised?

  2. Why do they not blare this all over the news? It scares me that nobody cares.

  3. One of the many tragic things about this video is that the young woman is unable to articulate her injury enough to get the attention of the judge. While watching it I was thinking of arguments I would make to get something done sooner. But you shouldn’t need a law degree to have meaningful access to the courts, or if you really do, at least appoint an attorney so her arguments can be made. It was such a grotesquely unfair situation from beginning to end.

  4. Rene Ilustre says:

    Rick, I’d like to invite you to attend the Occupy the APA protest on May 19 at Moscone Center in San Francisco. If you write to my email I can send you a poster of the event. It is about forced drugging of patients and outpatients, the bogus diagnostic labels now in the DSM and being used to make everyone seem mentally ill, and the use of certification by cops to sweep the streets and retaliate for contempt of cop. It seems it would be right up your alley and I hope you’ll decide to give it your time. Thanks.

  5. The only thing that surprises me is that he was fired and her complaint was corroborated. Internal affairs almost never concludes that.

    I too know that judges in general tend to sit on the bench allowing court security to violate people but it confounds me — I can never figure out what bureaucratic mechanism or influence is keeping them from acting. Horowitz – do you know why they tend to refrain?

    I have been wondering that for quite a long time. Just plain stupid or is there some price they pay for acting?

    I bothers me that this isn’t seen as a terrible wrong done to the mother and the child both. Done so casually. Such institutionalized abuse.

    Finally, Just want to say that the judge is an absolute pig. She should take her political ambitions off to summer camp and come back when she has an adult brain minimally adequate for being a lawyer, never mind a judge.

    • Many judges are afraid that if they act like judges and run their courtrooms, instead of hoping bailiffs won’t abuse their power, then bailiffs will be less supportive of them.

      There is reason to think they are right. I have been in courts where judges have trouble handling their calendars because bailiffs drag their feet bringing up people in custody when the court wants them. (The same happens to me in courtrooms with younger, or less professional, bailiffs. I wait longer for my in-custody clients than attorneys whose blogs those bailiffs don’t read.)

      And, in a Fresno election, law enforcement allegedly was concerned enough to support a less-experienced attorney for judge just because his opponent was believed to be defense-friendly, and he was pro-prosecution. (That is a story told to me during a discussion on this point with several defense attorneys older than me. I’m not sure which election they were talking about.)

      On that same note, more than one defense attorney has corrected me when I have suggested the judges are timid because they don’t have guns, and thus need the bailiffs — I’m told “no, it’s the law enforcement unions they fear.”