Can cops escape punishment for savagely beating college student?

By WND Staff

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review a lawsuit by a college student who claims he was misidentified as a fugitive and savagely beaten by police officers and an FBI agent.

The Institute for Justice is handling the case brought by James King regarding a 2014 joint state-federal task force incident in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

King’s lawyers contend that since then, the government “has played what amounts to a shell game to prevent King from holding the officers to account.”

The issue is the immunities that courts have created for law enforcement officers.

“In King’s case, he brought two kinds of federal claims because he was uncertain of the officers’ status as joint agents,” IJ said. “First, King brought constitutional claims against the officers themselves. Second, he brought claims against the U.S. government under a statute called the Federal Tort Claims Act. Bringing different kinds of claims is normal in American law. But now the U.S. Solicitor General is taking the position that because James brought claims under the FTCA, he cannot also bring constitutional claims against the officers.”

IJ Attorney Patrick Jaicomo said he hopes the court will reject the government’s request “for yet another way to shield officers from constitutional accountability.”

“Because members of joint federal-state task forces have power under both state and federal law, they should be more accountable, not less, when they use that power to violate the Constitution,” he said.

The government’s arguments for immunity were rejected by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

IJ contends the government is now asking the U.S. Supreme Court “to carve out a new form of immunity under the FTCA that would preclude plaintiffs like King from bringing alternative claims under the FTCA and Constitution.”

“In short, the government is asking the court to provide another shell for its shell game that would make it harder for plaintiffs to bring claims against government officers and easier for officers to avoid accountability for their constitutional violations,” said IJ President and General Counsel Scott Bullock.

WND previously reported the officers “misidentified” him as a suspect in a petty theft. IJ has posted a video explaining the case.

IJ said:

In 2014, King, then a 21-year-old college student, was walking between his two summer jobs in Grand Rapids, Michigan when he came upon two men in t-shirts and jeans, leaning against a black SUV. Although James had no idea who they were, these men were a local police detective and an FBI agent working as part of a task force and looking for a fugitive wanted for stealing a box of empty cans and several bottles of liquor from his former boss’ apartment. Without identifying themselves as police, the men began asking James questions and ultimately pinned him against their vehicle. When one of the men took James’ wallet, James believed he was being mugged. But when he tried to escape, the men tackled James, choked him unconscious, and severely beat him. While he was being beaten, James screamed for help, and passersby—who also did not recognize the men as police—called 911 pleading for help for James.

IJ said that when uniformed officers arrived, they added to the injury.

The officers shielded the attackers from accountability, IJ said, charged King – even though they knew he was not the fugitive – and prosecuted him.

He sued the officers after he was acquitted by a jury.

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