MADISON, Ala. – Madison Police Chief Larry Muncey has decided to take a leave of absence. The move came one day after his testimony for federal contempt of court charges.
Major Jim Cooke has been placed in charge of the department.
This case all stems from the first trial with Madison 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. Officer Parker was tried twice by federal prosecutors and two juries deadlocked.
For actions during the first trial, Chief Muncey and Capt. Terrell Cook were accused of criminal contempt stemming from contact with police witnesses. U.S. District Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala acquitted Capt. Terrell Cook earlier this week. Her ruling on Chief Muncey is expected soon.
Attorney Brian White represented Capt. Terrell Cook and said his client was essentially following orders from Chief Muncey to bring in a witness from the trial. There was no intent to break the law.
“If the Chief wanted to speak to someone Capt. Cook would be asked to go bring that person, who’s a subordinate officer, to talk to the Chief,” explained White.
In federal court Tuesday, Chief Muncey’s attorney, Jerry Barclay, argued Muncey didn’t focus on the facts of the Parker case and those interactions with witnesses. Barclay argued he discussed training of officers and how the officers were presenting themselves in court.
Capt. Terrell Cook’s acquittal now relieves him from the case.
“As for what it’s like,” said White, “the feeling is you feel good on the inside but you maintain your demeanor and as much as we knew that the Chief had further hearing about his outcome, we certainly weren’t in a celebratory situation.”
However relieved with the outcome, Cook’s chief still has a case that is still on the line.
“The Chief is someone he respects and I think considers a friend,” explained White. “We are wishing him well on what outcome might be ahead.”
As for the culture within the department right now, “He’s not talked about it but there was certainly what looked like a choosing of sides in the Parker trial. You either supported Officer Parker or the department. Now that the trial is behind them there is hope that the divisions will heal,” said White.
What about the legal fees in this case? WHNT News 19 asked if the City of Madison is paying White.
“Yes, I don’t know where it comes from. It could be the insurance policy or the city, but yes the City of Madison is paying my fees,” said White.
WHNT News 19 asked Mayor Troy Trulock who is paying for Chief Muncey’s fees. He said he wasn’t aware of how those fees would be handled.
Muncey is expected to be back in court on Friday.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this report misidentified the person placed in charge of the Madison Police Department as Capt. Terrell Cook. It is in fact Major Jim Cooke. WHNT News 19 regrets the error.