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Madison Police Chief says there’s no basis to charge him with contempt of court

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey today denied a federal judge’s suggestion that he may have broken court rules by discussing testimony with department officers during Eric Parker’s first federal civil rights trial.

Muncey’s attorney Jerry Barclay issued the reply on Muncey’s behalf.

Barclay says in part, “Neither the Judge nor the prosecutors suggested to Chief Muncey in any way that he should not monitor the testimony of witnesses, either by following media reports or by having a subordinate keep him apprised of the testimony.

“Consistent with his responsibilities as Chief of Police, Chief Muncey did his best to keep his finger on the pulse of the Parker case. His role as Chief required him to do no less.”

Click here to read the full news release

Last week, Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala said she was initiating contempt of court proceedings against Muncey and Madison Police Capt. Terrell Cook in connection with Parker’s first trial.

The court said once Muncey was excused as an expert witness in the case, he was still under notice as a witness that he could not hear other witness testimony.

Parker was charged with a federal excessive force charge in the February 2015 headfirst takedown of Sureshbhai Patel. The takedown was captured on police dashcam video and drew international attention.

Parker had two trials last year, both ending in mistrials.  Last month, Judge Haikala granted a defense motion to acquit Parker, ending the case.  During the trial a number of Madison Police Department officers testified Parker didn’t act contrary to department policy.

Muncey had moved to fire Parker after the incident and Cook signed the warrant seeking to have him charged in Limestone County with misdemeanor assault. That case is still pending. A lawsuit was also filed against Parker and the City of Madison on Patel’s behalf. Patel suffered spinal damage in the encounter and has difficulty walking.

In a closed-door hearing Sept. 8, the court heard from several Madison Police Department officers who testified they felt nervous and feared retribution from Muncey.  A transcript of that hearing has just been unsealed. It shows department officers critical of the decision to prosecute Parker and claiming they are worried the chief would retaliate against them.

The chief had questioned one officer after his testimony and sent an email to a handful of other officers during the Parker trial questioning whether press accounts were accurate in saying they testified that Parker’s actions didn’t violate department policy.

Another officer testified Cook directed him to go to court to listen to officer testimony and report back to him.

Read more of WHNT News 19's coverage of the Eric Parker case.