By Dan Habshi
New York State Trooper Exonerated in Federal Court – Offers Powerful Lesson To Other Police
The Federal District Court of Northern New York in Albany was the scene of a civil trial regarding the alleged use of excessive force by a current New York State Trooper. It had taken more than three years from the time of the defendant’s arrest on domestic violence charges until the jury’s verdict in the civil rights case.
On October 26, 2016 Trooper Peyton Ogden (formerly of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office) responded to a report of a possible kidnapping and violent domestic dispute taking place in Queensbury, New York.
According to trial testimony, the trooper was the lone officer on the scene and ran into the residence where he could hear the screams of a woman and a struggle.
Once inside the living room he found the suspect, Christopher Hansen, on top of the female victim, pinning her to the couch with a hand on her neck. By the victim’s account, a domestic dispute started outside the residence and she was dragged into her home by the hair.
Once in the living room she was pushed onto the couch where she was assaulted and choked by Hansen until the trooper intervened.
Trooper Ogden stated that when he entered the living room and announced his presence as a police officer, Hansen turned away from his victim and took a fighting stance while stating to Ogden:
“Do what you got to do.”
Ogden took Hansen to the ground. In the struggle Hansen tried to get back up to face the trooper. Ogden stated it was necessary to strike Hansen about the head and body to stop the threat to himself and the female victim.
In the initial lawsuit filed by Hansen, he claimed he was only restraining the female, using defensive tactics he learned as a corrections officer for New York State Department of Corrections.
Hansen was later fired from his position as a corrections sergeant following another arrest by Glens Falls PD, where he allegedly assaulted another female victim during a domestic dispute.
The jury heard testimony about Trooper Ogden’s training, beginning with the police academy he attended in 2011, as well as in-service training.
He was questioned extensively by his attorney, Gregg T. Johnson, regarding the reasoning behind his use of force.
Trooper Ogden made a clear case to the jury that his actions were not malicious, but done in a split second, to maintain the priority of life standards used by police officers when resorting to use of force options; the priority being the victims, followed by officers, and finally suspects.
After two days of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant, Trooper Ogden.
This case weighed heavily on Trooper Ogden’s testimony.
It highlights the need for officers to have the ability to clearly explain to a jury the reason why they do what they do. Not all officers can remain composed during cross examination.
Trial preparation needs to be taken seriously to prepare for the stress of testifying. Perhaps police agencies partnering with their district attorneys for annual mock trials would help build comfort and confidence in officers not skilled in testifying.
Today’s society and media are much more suspicious of the police than in the past. This case demonstrates how a heroic decision of an officer to risk his life for a stranger can result in a federal lawsuit against the officer and his agency.
Policing seems to be getting more and more dangerous – LEGALLY – every single day.
—- The following was previously written and published on LET by another party —-
The insanity of giving criminals more rights than our protectors has fully gone full-blown. For the first time ever within the United States, a police lieutenant is being indicted for a murder charge for taking down an active shooter.
I assure you; you didn’t misread that: a cop is actually being charged for shooting and killing an armed suspect who had opened fire on police and citizens.
A police lieutenant that is based out of Blackwell, Oklahoma was indicted earlier this week for second-degree murder in the May 20 killing of a woman during a vehicle pursuit, in which shots were fired at the officers involved in the pursuit.
"This would be the first time in American history that a police officer or anybody was charged with the crime of murder for shooting at an active shooter," said Jason Smith, president of the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police.https://t.co/7Ja7lQhHjR
— KOKH FOX 25 (@OKCFOX) November 26, 2019
Supporters of Blackwell Police Lieutenant John Mitchell say the suspect was an active shooter, which reports associated with the incident substantiate. Of course, various other media outlets have described the deceased woman as a “road rage suspect.”
But if they want to argue, I suppose it does require quite a bit of rage to open fire at police.
Oklahoma City grand jurors concluded Lieutenant Mitchell acted without justifiable or excusable cause in the events that led up to the death of Micheal Ann Godsey and engaged in “imminently dangerous conduct” toward her as well.
If the lieutenant is convicted, he faces a minimum of 10 years in prison. Apparently, we’ve gotten to a point where police are no longer allowed to protect their lives and the lives of others.
Defense attorney for the lieutenant, Gary James, said that Mitchell acted lawfully to stop what any reasonable person would describe as an active threat.
James went on to say, “She shot at the police twice. She has shot at her mother twice. She has shot at a private citizen. We know she fired other rounds around town. And Mitchell gets in behind her. He took his AR-15 and he started shooting through the front windshield at her.”
I’m sure the outrage culture would have preferred if he only used his pepper spray in defense of his life. Godsey was found dead in the driver’s seat of the pickup she was driving during the incident, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said in May.
Police say dispatch had received a call about an active shooter on May 20of this year who was going around town shooting. Then the active shooter allegedly began firing at the officers as well. A lot of gunfire was exchanged, and the woman was killed following a pursuit.
Upwards of 60 shots were reported, which is why some say he was indicted, but supporters disagree.
“This would be the first time in American history that a police officer, or anybody, was charged with the crime of murder for shooting at an active shooter”-OK FOP President Jason Smith on the murder indictment of Blackwell Officer John Mitchell @KTULNews pic.twitter.com/l3aMcaGhhs
— Burt Mummolo (@MummoloNews) November 25, 2019
Sean Ingram, one of the many Mitchell supporters that have come out to speak logic to the surrounding nonsense, had this to offer regarding those who think shooting too many times at a suspect is somehow immoral when they’re a threat to others:
“To me, you return fire until the threat is neutralized, and you don’t know if it’s going to be one or one hundred. He is the most honorable person I know, and I will back him all the way.”
According to his attorney on the case, Mitchell had just completed training on how to deal with an active shooter and was cleared by an independent internal affairs review of the incident.
So why was this even presented to a grand jury of internal affairs cleared the shooting as without incident?
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A bevy of Blackwell residents were astounded by the indictment. After the news broke locally, residents showed their support for the officer who is being wrongfully prosecuted for doing his job and protecting his community.
One support even sported a shirt donning a thin blue line flag and the words “Justice for John” emblazoned underneath the flag.
For the law enforcement community, the indictment has sent a chilling shockwave of concern, summed up by the state president of the fraternal order of police, Jason Smith.
“This would be the first time in American history that a police officer or anybody was charged with the crime of murder for shooting at an active shooter.”
“After learning of this indictment 6,000 FOP members around the state got up and were worried…that they would be unfairly judged.” -OK FOP President Jason Smith on the murder indictment of Blackwell officer John Mitchell @KTULNews pic.twitter.com/GOqy8REcmc
— Burt Mummolo (@MummoloNews) November 25, 2019
In today’s world, criminals are allowed to shoot at people, and those who we trust to protect us, are slowly losing the ability to shoot back.
It seems like as we “progress” as a nation, we’re putting criminals way ahead of our protectors.
And to that matter, criminals are seemingly even more of a priority than their victims.
A new series of criminal justice reforms due to take effect in January will fundamentally change how business is conducted in courts in New York.
One movement, to abolish cash bail, is one of the hallmarks of the law. Eliminating cash bail is supported by far-left New York governor Andrew Cuomo. The law would allow judges only three options for dealing with criminal defendants- release on own recognizance, supervised release or in more serious cases, incarceration pending trial.
This comes with its own set of problems. One can imagine that if a gang-banger drug dealer is arrested and charged with distribution of narcotics that would likely be considered a “minor” felony, subjecting said gang-banger to being released on own recognizance or supervised release. In liberal land New York, incarceration pending trial for a “low level” drug offense is not likely.
So, now we have a drug dealer who has been released onto the streets. He will now be able to locate and intimidate witnesses who might testify against him. If they’re lucky, it will only be intimidation and not something worse. Of course, based on another part of the law, they will know exactly who those witnesses are.
And while New York was spinning its wheels once again throwing down with criminals, a loophole in an existing state law was discovered.
The top prosecutor in Manhattan stated that because of a legal loophole in state law, someone who becomes voluntarily intoxicated is not considered to be “mentally incapacitated” for the purposes of giving consent, according to the Independent.
In a 2018 letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo written by District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., he wrote:
“But there is no difference between an intoxicated individual’s ability to consent to sexual acts when he or she was drugged, and an intoxicated individual’s ability to consent when he or she voluntarily drank alcohol or took narcotics.”
The letter was reviewed by the Washington Post.
Mr. Vance was pushing Cuomo for legislation to eradicate the requirement under state law that a victim’s intoxication was involuntary. He reasoned that a reasonable person should know whether or not a person was drunk, and therefore should not be shielded from prosecution.
Surprisingly, according to the Independent, most states only imply a lack of consent where the intoxication was involuntary, according to an article published in the Brooklyn Law Review in 2016.
As a basis for his argument, Mr. Vance cited a 2011 case involving two NYPD police officers who were arrested and subsequently acquitted of rape charges involving an intoxicated woman. Officers Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Matta allegedly raped the woman after helping her while on patrol.
Prosecutors could not prove that the woman had not agreed to consensual sex with the officers because of existing law. Mr. Vance argued that the officers should have known that the woman was incapable of informed consent.
“If someone is drinking voluntarily and become excessively drunk, that’s not a green light for someone to sexually assault you,” Vance wrote. “No one should be able to assault you simply because you put yourself in a case where dangerous things might happen,” he said. As of September, Cuomo’s office had not responded to Vance’s letter.
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