HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The attorney for the man injured last year after being forcefully taken to the ground by Madison Police officer Eric Parker wants the hold on their civil lawsuit lifted.
Sureshbhai Patel’s attorney Hank Sherrod is asking a federal court to lift the stay in the civil case which was delayed pending the outcome of Parker’s criminal case. Patel suffered spinal damage in the encounter.
Generally, civil lawsuit defendants can receive a stay in those proceedings until any related criminal case is resolved. The 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination is typically cited, as no defendant can be made to testify in a civil matter when their testimony could later be used against him in the criminal case.
Parker had two trials last year in federal court and they both ended with hung juries. In January U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala granted a defense motion to acquit Parker of the excessive force-civil rights violation charge.
Parker also faces a misdemeanor assault charge stemming from the February 2015 takedown on a quiet Madison street, where Patel had recently moved to live with his son’s family. Parker’s attorney Robert Tuten argued that Parker was engaged in routine police work and did nothing wrong in the takedown of Patel.
The defense argued Patel failed to comply with directions from Parker, who had responded to a 911 call from the neighborhood about an unknown person looking in garages.
Sherrod’s motion argues that Parker has testified twice in federal court and with the upcoming retirement of the judge in the assault case in Limestone County, that matter is “unlikely to be resolved any time soon.” He said the stay was based on not forcing Parker to testify.
The City of Madison is also a defendant in the lawsuit. Sherrod’s motion says the attorneys for both Madison and Parker oppose his request to move the case forward.
In a related case, the special prosecutor assigned to a criminal contempt of court investigation against Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey and police Capt. Terrell Cook has asked the court to allow him to file a document under seal.
Judge Haikala has set a March 22 hearing wherein Muncey and Cook will be asked to show the court why they should not be charged with contempt stemming from their contact with police witnesses during Parker’s first trial.
The filing by special prosecutor Anthony Joseph tells the court that the document should be filed under seal because it will: “…expedite actions that, given the time-sensitive nature of these proceedings, must be taken swiftly,” and “…serve the public interest by staving off potential misconceptions related to local law enforcement personnel.”
The judge was notified that Muncey had spoken with an officer – who’d testified that Parker’s takedown of Patel was within department policy – during the trial, had sent an email to some officers asking for a report about their testimony when the trial was finished and Cook reportedly sent a police sergeant to watch the testimony and report back to the chief.
The two men were on the witness list and court rules prohibit discussion with other witnesses about their testimony.
Officers told the court they felt intimidated by the actions of their superiors. The judge issued a finding last week suggesting the actions had endangered Parker’s right to a fair trial. She suggested they could face a federal misdemeanor charge that carries a sentence of up to six months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.
Muncey’s attorney, Jerry Barclay, has denied there was any wrongdoing and said any actions Muncey took were consistent with his job as chief of police.