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June 5, 2004
FBI, DoJ Clear Police In Porter Case

The FBI and the Department of Justice have closed the case of alleged police brutality brought by Stephen Porter, a drug dealer and sometime informant of the Minneapolis PD:

Two Minneapolis police officers named in an explosive allegation that a man was sexually assaulted with a toilet plunger handle during a drug raid won't face federal criminal charges, Chief Bill McManus announced Friday.

Stephen Porter said that he was assaulted in a north Minneapolis apartment nearly eight months ago. McManus said the U.S. Justice Department investigation found no evidence of a "prosecutable violation" of federal criminal civil rights laws by officers Jeff Jindra and Todd Babekuhl.

When this case hit the media, it was front-page news, especially since it echoed the notorious Abner Louima case in New York. However, the Stephen Porter case seemed wrong from the start. First off, the alleged abuse took place not in a police station but in a private residence at the time of the arrest, when it would have presented much more risk to the officers of witnesses. Second, as the article itself relates, Porter's own behavior added to the skepticism:

On Oct. 15, Porter, 25, surrounded by community activists and religious leaders, limped into a news conference at The City Inc. and later collapsed. Hours earlier, he had been seen walking at a brisk pace following his release from jail. ...

A month later, Porter was charged with crack cocaine possession after a raid at a duplex in the 1700 block of Emerson Av. N. When he was booked into jail, he accused a different police officer of sexually assaulting him during the Oct. 13 raid, according to a statement from that officer in a document obtained by the Star Tribune.

Even after two investigations at the federal level failed to pan out and with Porter giving something short of an Academy Award-winning performance, local activists still say that the lack of charges derives from the racist society in which we live:

The Rev. Ian Bethel, the spokesman for a group that is working with the Police Department to improve relations with the community, said Friday's news would be a test because "we're not seeing eye to eye in principle regarding this matter."

"The community isn't surprised by this outcome," Bethel said. "You have to look at the history of these investigations. The Department of Justice, Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and the FBI have investigated brutality complaints, and they never get sustained." ...

"I am absolutely disgusted about this process," said the Rev. Randolph Staten, co-chairman of the Coalition of Black Churches. "Sending this case to the FBI is a sham, a cover-up." ...

Community activist Spike Moss, who was among the first to encourage Porter to speak publicly about what happened during a drug raid inside a north Minneapolis apartment on Oct. 13, had little to say. "The Justice Department has never, ever ruled in our favor," Moss said tersely. "Never."

Well, I suppose some people can never be satisfied. The MPD recused themselves from the investigation specifically to ensure that Porter's allegations could get an independent review. The case received two such reviews, from the DoJ and the FBI, which still found no evidence of a crime. I don't know what more Bethel wants, but if he thinks that it's proper to jail people without evidence and a trial, then perhaps he's not the best person with which the MPD could work to build community relationships.

Porter managed to get one last bit of comedy into the case before the two police officers went back to work. Interviewed at prison where he's serving time on more drug-related charges, the addict had this to say:

Porter, who is now serving time in Stillwater prison on a previous drug conviction, stood by his story Friday, saying the investigation was a cover-up of police brutality. "I would never get on TV and lie," he told KSTP-TV.

Um, yeah. Addicts are legendary for their honesty.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 5, 2004 10:59 AM

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