Land Of The Free

Land Of The Free

by digby

You can't see much in the video, but you can hear someone screaming in horrible pain:

Here's what was happening:

John Harmon was coming off a late night at work when he left his downtown marketing firm for his Anderson Township home just after midnight in October 2009.

The 52-year-old longtime diabetic's blood sugar levels had dipped to a dangerously low level causing him to weave into another lane.

A Hamilton County sheriff's deputy spotted him on Clough Pike and suspected drunken driving.

What happened over the next two minutes and 20 seconds should never happen to anyone, Harmon said.


Deputy Wolf saw Harmon driving a 1998 Ford Expedition erratically near Wolfangel Road and pulled Harmon over.

Wolf, his gun drawn, and Wissel approached the SUV, the lawsuit said.

"The deputy's face was extremely contorted, he was screaming," Harmon said. "I remember being taken aback, recoiled and thought, 'What's going on?' I was being presented with pure evil, it was a chilling experience."

Wolf smashed the driver's side window.

Wissel shocked Harmon with a Taser for the first time. Deputy Haynes responded to the deputies' call for backup.

Harmon said the officers tried to yank him out of the SUV, but he was caught in his seat belt. He was stunned with a Taser again.

Wissel cut Harmon out of his seat belt. In his suit, Harmon said he was "violently dragged from the vehicle, thrown on the ground, kicked in the head by a boot, and stomped mercilessly while laying on his back."

"It all happened so quick, I didn't have time to think or react," Harmon said. "I just remember being on the ground, the intense pain and being pummeled."

The attack was so brutal Harmon said he thought it was a gang attack, not a traffic stop.

It was.

In fact, it took a Highway Patrol officer and state trooper randomly coming along to break it up. They charged him with resisting arrest even after they found out that he was having a medical emergency and all the officers involved are still working having suffered nothing more than a few days without pay.

Harmon said it's disturbing the deputies weren't fired. Even the ones not directly involved in the attack watched it happen and didn't intervene, he said.

"I'm so thankful the state trooper got there," Harmon said. "If not, I believe I may have been killed."

Leis, during a settlement talk, apologized.

"I appreciated that," Harmon said. "I thought there are people who realize the outrageousness of this and want to do the right thing."

Two weeks after the traffic stop, prosecutors dismissed the charges against Harmon.

But, there are after effects - physical and mental.

Harmon has had three surgeries on his elbow and one on his thumb, which he couldn't move for weeks. Doctors tell him he may eventually have to get a shoulder and elbow replacement. He has insurance, but his medical bills are nearing $100,000.

Panic attacks come when Harmon simply sees a deputy driving nearby.

"Be calm," he has to caution himself. "Don't look their way."

A recent trip to Colerain Township - where the officers now work - prompted him to look over his shoulder the whole time.

"It's disturbing that I have to live like this," he said.

At that point, for the first time in the 90-minute interview, Harmon put his face in his hands and quietly cried.

Harmon is a middle aged African American man and president of his own marketing firm. He moved to this town for the schools.

I suppose the argument can be made that if these police officers hadn't had tasers they would have beaten this man far worse with their batons or even shot him with their firearms. But I doubt it. Tasers unleash the sadist in people in ways that other instruments of pain don't. The fact that it leaves no marks and releases no blood makes certain people feel liberated.

No nation can call itself free or civilized if it allows its authorities to treat innocent citizens like they treated that man. It happens every single day in America.

Here's hoping that this will be the year that we come to realize that this isn't a joke and that it isn't "slapstick" humor. The Ninth Circuit opinion is a welcome beginning to a constitutional decision, however, I'm very concerned that this Supreme Court will find them perfectly legal. I think social and cultural sanctions are going to be necessary to end this.

We should start with Hollywood. As "funny" as these scenes are in films and TV shows, they are normalizing torture and we shouldn't stand for it. Next time you see one think about how funny it would be if it happened to you --- or a child or a sick person or any frightened citizen being shot through with 50,000 volts on the whim of a police officer, all of which happens all the time. Then picture how funny the scene would be if it was a billy club --- and ask yourself if there's really any difference.