Appeals court upholds former Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey’s contempt of court conviction

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Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey (Photo: WHNT)

MADISON, Ala. — A federal appeals court has upheld former Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey’s misdemeanor contempt of court conviction.

The opinion, issued Thursday, denied the former chief’s appeal.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said there was sufficient evidence to support the April 2016 conviction.

The charge stemmed from Muncey’s contact with officers in his department who had testified during officer Eric Parker’s first excessive force trial in 2015.

Parker was ultimately acquitted by U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala after two juries deadlocked on whether he used excessive force in taking down Suresbhai Patel during an encounter in Madison in February 2015.

Patel was left injured from the encounter and Muncey suspended Parker, with the intent to terminate him. He was indicted by a federal grand jury and taken to trial in late August 2015.

A number of Parker’s fellow officers testified on his behalf. They testified Parker’s conduct was within department policy, a position Muncey disputed.

Following some of that testimony in the first trial, Muncey sent an email to several officers questioning their understanding of department policy and advising them that he wanted to discuss the testimony when the trial was over.

The officers notified the defense, who notified the judge. Muncey was directed not to have any contact with witnesses and following her order acquitting Parker, the government moved to hold Muncey in contempt.

Muncey had been identified initially as an expert witness during the first trial and was allowed to hear testimony. The government eventually told the court the chief would not be called as an expert witness and was told to leave the courtroom.

The government argued Muncey ignored the court’s clear instruction not to have contact with other witnesses. Muncey’s attorneys said he didn’t hear the judge’ order and was unfamiliar with the court’s rules. Muncey admitted following testimony on a WHNT News 19 live blog from the courtroom and sending an officer to monitor the proceedings.

He testified he had a duty to protect the department from future excessive force issues and wanted all of his officers to be clear on the policy and the law.

The court convicted the chief and fined him $2,500. He was placed on leave by the City of Madison while he appealed the ruling, but he resigned the position in November 2016.