When I spoke to attorney David Lane about the Adams County's $20,000 payout to prisoner Mario Ybarra, who was thumped by deputies after he gave them grief over a troublesome fingerprint device, I asked about his demand for every document related to excessive force complaints against Denver cops and sheriff's personnel for eight years.
His response? "We've got them."
Accomplishing this goal wasn't easy. Back in July 2011, Judge John Kane ordered the City of Denver to release the eight year's worth of reports in conjunction with a police brutality allegation involving Jason Graber. As we reported, Graber said he was walking from a Denver club to the Adams Mark hotel in March 2008 when a police car sped by so fast that he motioned for the driver to slow down. Instead, the officer in question -- Shawn Miller -- stopped the car and tackled Graber to the ground.
A few days later, we noted that Miller was involved in another alleged incident of brutality involving James Moore, described by West Denver Copwatch as a disabled Iraq war veteran. Miller and another officer arrived at the apartment in response to a noise complaint and allegedly tackled Moore, who was with his girlfriend at the time, after ordering him to take his hand out of his pocket. According to the WDC account, Moore never had his hand in his pocket, but he was punched, kicked and struck with a sap anyhow. Lane says Moore actually "flat-lined" as a result of his pummeling, but subsequently recovered. He's also a Lane client -- a key fact, as the story developed.
Denver didn't immediately turn over the documents in question, and its foot-dragging hardly pleased Judge Kane. In September, he gave the city a few more weeks to comply with his edict, after which he pledged to impose a $5,000 per day fine.
Before the month was done, Denver settled the Graber case for $225,000 -- an amount Lane said was much higher than it would have been had the city acquiesced earlier in the process. He added that if officials thought this sum would get them out of providing the documents, they were wrong, since the Moore case was unresolved. He told us that given the brutality at the heart of that incident, he wouldn't accept anything less than a seven-figure sum -- and without such a deal, he'd make the same demand for excessive force documents as in the Graber matter.
Thus far, no settlement has been reached regarding Moore -- and Denver eventually came through with the excessive-force paperwork. And there's lots of it.
"We are currently slogging through tens of thousands of documents and looking for examples of Denver tolerating police brutality," Lane says.
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Is his staff finding any? In his words, "looking for examples of Denver tolerating police abuse is like looking for hay in a haystack."
At this point, there are no pending court dates for the Moore case, but Lane's not complaining about that. After all, he and his crew have plenty of homework to finish first.
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