First, CSU student Michaella Surat was prosecuted for alleged obstruction and resisting arrest even though viral cell-phone video from last year showed her being body-slammed by a Fort Collins police officer. Then, after a mistrial was declared, delaying the case until August, Surat's attorney, David Lane, released the cops' body-camera footage in an effort to prove that she was the victim of excessive force. And now, the district attorney's office that's going after Surat wants Lane to be sanctioned for sharing the images with the media.
Lane's reaction? He's filed a response to the motion for sanctions in which he denies any wrongdoing, and in conversation, he fires both barrels at Eighth Judicial District DA Clifford Riedel and first assistant DA Mitch Murray, who's handling the Surat matter for the State of Colorado.
"This is a corrupt prosecutors' office," Lane says. "It apparently hasn't changed much since they got tagged for a $10 million judgment after framing Tim Masters. And I want the public to see how corrupt they are."
The sanctions motion, Lane's response and an interview transcript with Randy Klamser, the officer with Fort Collins Police Services who smashed Surat, are accessible below, as are two videos — the cell-phone clip and the body-camera footage.
On April 6 of last year, Fort Collins police officers were called to the Bondi Beach Bar in Old Town because Surat's boyfriend got into a fight with another man. During opening arguments for the first attempt to put Surat on trial (it took place in January), Murray maintained that when officers arrived, she and her boyfriend were trying to get back into the bar after he'd been kicked out. He asserted that Surat was generally uncooperative, hitting and grabbing the neck of Officer Klamser, as well as trying to get a crowd that gathered to turn against the cops.
Here's how Klamser responded:
This material soon aired on Good Morning America and other network outlets. But no apologies to Surat were forthcoming. Instead, she was arrested after Klamser said she'd assaulted him.
Riedel and company eventually decided not to pursue that allegation, but they charged Surat with the aforementioned obstruction and resisting-arrest beefs.
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During last month's return to court, prosecutors tried to use comments Surat made in three previous domestic-violence episodes during which she was the victim to suggest that she had a history of losing control in such situations. Lane paraphrased her as saying, "Oh, no, he didn't touch me. He did nothing to me. When I cry, my face swells up — and I get very emotional. I fly off the handle a lot."
To Lane, this tactic took advantage of a person clearly suffering from battered woman syndrome, and the judge in the trial, Joshua Lehman, eventually agreed to put the proceedings on hold for several months.
Shortly thereafter, Lane shared the body-camera footage, which had already been shown in court, with numerous media outlets, including this one.
See it here. The interactions that led to the body slam begin shortly before the one-minute mark.
The distribution of the video clearly touched a nerve with the DA's office, which hit Lane with the motion for sanction.
He sums up the dispute like so: "They say I released discovery to the media, and that violates the criminal discovery rules. And I say, 'No, I didn't release discovery to the media. I released a piece of evidence admitted into evidence by the prosecutors during a public trial in a public courtroom.' So they're complaining that I released what they'd released into evidence."
The DA's office reps feel Lane's actions "will taint a jury pool" when the case starts up again, he notes. "But my response is, if they want something to remain secret, they shouldn't admit it into evidence in a public courtroom."
He follows this assertion with a rhetorical question: "Why do they want it to remain secret? The police in Fort Collins have been screaming that 'once our investigation is complete, we will release the body-camera video and it will prove the officer did nothing wrong.' But the body-camera footage proves exactly the opposite. That's why they haven't released it. And now they've gone so far as to seek sanctions on me to punish me for my free speech."
Prosecutors are likely trying to turn Judge Lehman against Lane. But if he's worried about this prospect, he doesn't let on.
"The judge can look askance at me all day long," he allows. "That's fine by me. I've released the truth to the media, and if that causes the judge heartburn, I guess the judge just needs to deal with it."
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In Lane's view, the body-camera footage "shows that Officer Klamser committed a felony assault on Michaella Surat. And what's happened since then shows the DA's office will do anything to protect corrupt police officers, including charging her with a crime. They originally charged her with assaulting the cop. That was dismissed by the DA because they watched the body-camera footage, but that didn't deter them from continuing the prosecution."
He adds that the DA's office "has spent incredible amounts of taxpayer dollars on this case. They hired an expert on the use of force from Maryland on this misdemeanor case, at taxpayer expense, to opine that what Officer Klamser did was perfectly appropriate. And the chief deputy district attorney, who's going to be running for the DA's job at the next vacancy, has been bending over backward to convict a victim of felony assault."
Earlier this month, Lane said he planned to file a suit on Surat's behalf whether she's found innocent or guilty of the accusations against her. His reply to whether the attempt to sanction him has further solidified his resolve to do so: "Absolutely."