Madison police chief is appealing federal contempt of court decision

Huntsville

Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey was found in contempt of court relating to Officer Eric Parker’s first trial. (April 15, 2016)

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MADISON, Ala. - Monday, Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey sent notice he will appeal a federal judge's decision to hold him in contempt of court.

The charge stemmed from Muncey's contact with police witnesses during the first Eric Parker civil rights trial in September. Muncey was on the witness
list and court rules bar contact between witnesses while a case is ongoing.

Muncey had argued that he did not intend to violate court rules, he was simply concerned that he needed to correct officers who'd testified they hadn't received proper training or believed Parker's takedown of Sureshbhai Patel was within department policy.

Muncey's attorney Jerry Barclay filed the notice of appeal Tuesday morning. The appeal will go the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The filing says Muncey appeals the "denial of his motion to recuse." Muncey had asked Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala to recuse herself from presiding over the contempt hearing. He'd argued that based on previous statements the judge had made regarding the contempt charge it was reasonable to question her impartiality.

The filing also appeals the contempt judgment and the sentence imposed. Muncey was found guilty of contempt, a federal misdemeanor, on April 15 and ordered to pay a $2,500 fine. He was also ordered to take a class on managing liability.

Muncey was charged along with Madison Police Capt. Terrell Cook. Haikala acquitted Cook, finding there was not enough evidence to support the charge.

The judge said Chief Muncey’s email to officers who appeared in Officer Eric Parker’s first trial showed he knew he wasn’t supposed to discuss testimony.  The judge said Muncey’s contempt case was a “willful violation.”  She said Muncey should have trusted the process and not injected himself into it.

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After the hearing, Mayor Troy Trulock said Muncey was on paid administrative leave, pending the conclusion of the appeal.

The Madison City Council had agreed in December to pay the legal fees for officers called before Haikala. The council's resolution also says the city "reserves the right to request repayment of all monies paid out on behalf of any employee if there is rendered a criminal conviction for any of his actions which formed the basis for Judge Haikala's questioning."

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