Judge acquits Madison police captain of contempt charge, still considering police chief’s charge

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — A federal judge Tuesday acquitted a Madison Police captain of contempt charges. She is still considering charges against Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey.

The hearing has been going since 9 a.m. Tuesday. Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala ruled late Tuesday afternoon, acquitting Police Capt. Terrell Cook of contempt charges. She is trying to rule on Muncey's charge Tuesday, also.

The two men could have faced criminal contempt charges stemming from contact with police witnesses during the first trial of Madison Police officer Eric Parker.

Parker was charged with use of excessive force in the February 2015 takedown of Sureshbhai Patel, in Madison. Patel suffered a spinal injury. Parker was tried twice by federal prosecutors and two juries deadlocked.

Last week, Muncey’s lawyers filed a motion arguing that Judge Haikala’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned and she is likely to be a material witness.

“As shown in the statements recited above, the Court has already declared its decision that Muncey violated the Court’s Rule 615 Order,” Muncey's filing argued. “This finding occurred prior to Muncey hearing the testimony being offered against him, having the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses, and having the opportunity to present evidence in his defense.”

The filing was submitted to the court last Tuesday.

Muncey’s filing points to a court transcript which it says shows the judge saying that the two men violated a federal court ruling concerning inappropriate contact with witnesses.

Muncey’s attorney Jerry Barclay also says Haikala should recuse herself because they want to hear her testimony.

“The Court is likely to be a material witness in the upcoming criminal contempt hearing because whether the Court or counsel for the United States advised Muncey of his obligations under (Rule 615) before he was excused from the courtroom is a critical, if not the critical, issue in the upcoming criminal contempt hearing.”

In January, Haikala issued an order acquitting Parker of the charges, after finding there was not sufficient evidence to convict him.

She issued the finding calling for a show cause hearing for the two men in February, after finding their conduct could be subject to criminal contempt charges.