St. Paul Police Chief Apologizes to GBBS Client Attacked by K9 and Kicked by Officer

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Video footage that was recently released depicts Frank Baker’s disturbing June 24, 2016 encounter with St. Paul Police officers.  In the video, Baker is viciously attacked by St. Paul Police officer Ficcadenti’s police K9 and kicked three times in the ribs by officer Palkowitsch, while he was trying to comply with the officers’ orders.  Baker sustained serious injuries and spent 14 days in the hospital as a result.  He underwent skin grafts and other surgical procedures on his leg that was ripped apart by the K9.  Further, Baker suffered broken ribs and collapsed lungs as a result of the kicks.

On Friday, November 4, 2016, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell released squad video of the incident and issued an apology to Baker.  During his press conference, Chief Axtell declared the video “is not the Saint Paul way” and described why he was releasing the video, noting, in part:

“As St. Paul’s police chief, I’m disappointed and upset by what the video shows. As a person who deeply cares about this community and our department, I’m profoundly saddened…I am releasing this video today because it’s the right thing to do. Our community has a right to know what’s happening with their police department. For me, it’s about transparency. It’s about honoring the trust that our public has in its department, its officers and myself.”

Despite Chief Axtell’s words, the Union alleges the officers’ conduct was proper.  This is belied by Ficcadenti’s acceptance of his discipline in which he admitted to the factual basis for the discipline.  Click HERE to view the Settlement Letter that details the factual basis for Ficcadenti’s 30 day suspension and the numerous policy violations he committed during his encounter with Baker.  Meanwhile, Palkowitsch was been placed on unpaid leave.

Baker’s story quickly gained media attention and has been widely reported in many news outlets including the New York Times and many others due to the video evidence depicting the violent encounter.  More coverage of the incident and Chief Axtell’s apology can be found on the individual media websites (visit: the New York Times, StarTribune, Kare11, Fox 9, MPR, KSTP and WCCO).  The video itself can be viewed HERE.

Robert Bennett of GBBS presents at Congressional Briefing

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Washington, D.C.:  On November 1, 2016, Robert Bennett of GBBS presented at a Congressional Briefing, where he discussed police brutality and excessive force.  He noted the importance of video evidence in such instances, as it has helped increase public awareness on these topics.  Further, video evidence has been beneficial in his federal civil rights practice – helping him to better assess and prove the violation of his clients’ rights.  Bennett showed video footage and still images from squad videos and pen cameras as part of his presentation, which had a profound impact on the audience.  C-SPAN covered the event and it can be viewed in full here.  Bennett also participated in a Town Hall Session at the National Press Club on Policing and Training during his time in D.C., which can be viewed in full here.

Kathryn Bennett of GBBS files case against Pizza Luce and bouncer

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Kathryn Bennett, attorney for Plaintiff Anthony Yares, filed suit against Pizza Luce and one of its bouncers, Defendant Adam Treanor.  In the early morning hours of April 24, 2016, Yares was grabbed, pushed through the restaurant and choked by Treanor.  During the incident, Yares’ head was split open requiring seven staples.  He also sustained a concussion and a neck sprain.  The bouncer’s unjustified actions were caught on video, portions of which can be viewed here on KSTP’s coverage of the lawsuit.

If you believe you have a personal injury claim, please contact Kathryn Bennett or any member of the GBBS team for a consultation.

GBBS Partner Andrew Noel called on to discuss Jamar Clark shooting

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The Minneapolis Police Department recently concluded its internal investigation into the November 15, 2015 shooting death of Jamar Clark by MPD officers Riggenberg and Schwarze.  The result: neither officer will be disciplined.  As Andrew Noel stated in an interview with KSTP, the conclusion is not that surprising given that a high percentage of such outcomes end favorably for the officers.  Now, the family has plans to bring a federal civil rights case against the involved officers.  As Noel noted, the determination not to discipline would not dissuade him from bringing a civil case.  However, the evidence must be analyzed properly using the objective reasonableness test to determine if such a claim is justified.  The KSTP news story can be viewed here.

If you feel you have been a victim of police brutality, excessive force or other police abuse, please contact Andrew Noel or any member of the GBBS civil rights team for a consultation.

What Are an Inmate’s Rights While in Prison?

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prison abuse attorney
With the recent headlines of police misconduct and brutality all over the news, many questions have been raised concerning the rights of inmates in prison. Even though entering jail does curtail some rights, that does not mean inmates are without human rights. In fact, there have been laws passed in the U.S. Constitution in order to protect inmates rights while in jail. If you or someone you know is going to jail, it is important to fully understand your inmates’ rights in order to be on the look out for potential prison misconduct.

Inmates rights

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

The Eighth Amendment states that every inmate has the right to be free from inhumane treatment while in jail. The Supreme Court has upheld that this includes drawing and quartering, disembowelment, beheading, public dissection, and burning alive.

Sexual harassment and sex crimes

This applies to excessive force put upon you by either another inmate or a member of the prison staff. These acts are taken incredibly seriously in the court system and can carry both civil and criminal sections against those who perform them.

The right to complain about the prison’s conditions and access to the courts

As an inmate, you have the right to voice your concern about your living conditions. You are entitled to a clean, livable space, and if it is not up to standard, any prisoner has the right to make their voice heard. This also includes access to the courts, so if for example your requests are being denied by prison guards, you have the right to enter the court system and speak to a judge.

Medical and mental health care

Prisoners are entitled to receive the same medical and mental health treatment that has been prescribed to them by a doctor. However, the court must deem your treatments reasonable, so if you are on elective medications, then you may not be able to continue.

If you believe that your rights have been violated while in prison, it is important that you contact a prison abuse attorney as soon as possible. These civil rights lawyers specialize in personal injury law and are there to help protect you and to fight for your rights. Hiring a prison abuse attorney will also prevent you from going to court once again, as a full 96% of all personal injury cases are settled pretrial.

Have any questions? Contact our professionals at Gaskins Bennett today.

Seven GBBS Attorneys Recognized as “Super Lawyers” and “Rising Stars” 2016

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GBBS is pleased to announce that the following attorneys have been selected as “Super Lawyers” for 2016:  Steve Gaskins, Robert Bennett, Andrew Birrell, Timothy Schupp and Andrew Noel.  Additionally, GBBS attorneys Ryan Vettleson and Katie Bennett have been listed as “Rising Stars” for 2016.

Super Lawyers, a Thompson Reuters business, selects a list of outstanding attorneys in over 70 practice areas in order to be used as a resource for attorneys and clients searching for legal counsel.  The Super Lawyers list is comprised of those who have obtained a high degree of peer recognition and professional competence.  The selections are made using a multi-phased process, which includes a statewide survey, an independent research evaluation by Super Lawyers and a peer evaluation by practice area.  The final list represents no more than 5% of the lawyers in the state of Minnesota.

The Rising Star List is intended to identify the best lawyers 40 years old or younger or in practice for 10 years or less.  No more than 2.5% of the lawyers in Minnesota are named to the Rising Star list.

Robert Bennett, Andrew Noel and Katie Bennett Settle Federal Civil Rights Action for $1.45 Million

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Robert Bennett, Andrew Noel and Katie Bennett recently settled a federal civil rights action brought on behalf of the next of kin of Kyle Allan Baxter-Jensen, who committed suicide at the Stearns County Jail in December of 2010.  Kyle was a mentally ill man who was incarcerated at the Stearns County Jail for driving while intoxicated on November 13, 2010.  The following day, Kyle attempted suicide using a disassembled razor to slit his throat and both of his wrists.  He was found alive by jail personnel and was taken to St. Cloud Hospital for treatment of his physical injuries.  Kyle was returned to Stearns County Jail the same day.  Upon his return and over the next few weeks, Kyle was clearly a significant suicide risk.  He exhibited many red flags confirming he suffered from a significant and pervasive mental illness, in addition to the obvious and numerous staples, sutures and bandages over his recent self-inflicted wounds.  Nonetheless, Kyle did not receive the mental health treatment he required.  Instead, he was prematurely moved to general housing where access to razors could not be effectively prohibited.  Kyle obtained a razor on December 4, 2010 and used it to commit suicide by again slitting his own throat.  MEnD Correctional Care and Defendant Todd Leonard, MD held the contract with Stearns County to provide medical and mental health care to inmates.  The MEnD Defendants voluntarily paid $850,000 to settle this action and Stearns County paid $600,000.

A Driver’s Rights During a Traffic Stop

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police misconductWith the recent cases of police misconduct at traffic stops, more and more Americans are learning to fear — rightly or wrongly — excessive force and brutality on the part of police officers. Even though police officers are here for your protection, it is important to know your rights during a traffic stop. Here are your rights while on the road.

It is illegal to pull you over without probable cause.
Police officers are forbidden from pulling you over randomly. They need a reason — such as speeding, a broken tail light, erratic driving, or seeing you text and drive. However, the initial reason you are pulled over may not be the reason you are issued a ticket. For example, if you are stopped for speeding and the cop finds drugs in your car, they may forgo giving you a citation for speeding while ticketing you for a drug possession charge. This is perfectly legal and will stand up in court, as their write-up of the situation will illustrate the probable cause.

You do not have to pull over immediately.
You should start looking for a safe place to pull over the moment you recognize the cop behind you. But if you are unable to do so safely, it is okay to notify the officer with a hand signal and pull over as soon as possible.

You have the right to stay in your car.
While it is important to follow the officer’s instructions, if you feel unsafe in anyway you have the legal right to stay inside your car. Keep in mind that cops often ask a passenger to leave the car as a safety precaution, for both you and them.

Cops have the right to search your car without a warrant…
…but only under these five reasons:
1. Your spoken consent.
2. Plain view. This means if the cop can see in plain view that you have a gun or drugs out in the open, they have the right to search.
3. Search incident to arrest, meaning if they had probable cause to arrest you, they can go into your car.
4. If the officer has probable cause to suspect a crime.
5. Exigent circumstances in the case that the cop believes the evidence is about to be destroyed.

If you are a victim of police misconduct, it is important to invest in a police brutality lawyer. Police misconduct attorneys are able to defend your rights and save you valuable time within the court system, as only 4% of all personal injury lawsuits ever go to trial.

Don’t be hesitant when it comes to your rights; call an attorney today.

Minorities Are More Likely to Be Pulled Over by Cops, Study Shows

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civil rights lawerIn light of the recent racial tensions between cops and minorities nationwide, a new study may have the ability to change how we think about race in the United States.

In a new study published in the BMJ journal Injury Prevention, researchers have found that African Americans and Latinos are just as likely to be victims of police violence as white people. However African American and Latinos — men especially — are more likely to be pulled over, stopped, and questioned by the police.

And the result of this finding? Activists, civil rights lawyers, and angered people nationwide believe that these minority populations, especially men of color, are targets for racial harm at the hands of U.S. law enforcement officers.

Many are familiar with the tragic police shootings of African American men Alton Sterling and Philando Castile earlier in July. Then the country watched in horror as a black man, angered by the shootings of these two men, opened fire on white police officers during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, Texas. These heartbreaking deaths have made activists question law enforcement over deliberate indifference, and to call for change. At the same time, many police officers feel disrespected and taken for granted.

Now, many activists are extremely skeptical of the new study, which seemed to suggest that law enforcement officers were not more likely to behave violently to black or Latino Americans. Also, simulation studies show that officers are are just as likely to fire on an armed person no matter their skin color. Even the researchers cautioned that the results should not be used to discredit claims of racially-motivated police violence.

The researchers wrote in their study, “The excess per-capita death rate of blacks from U.S. police action rightly concerns policy analysts, advocates and the press.” And for those minorities who suspect they are victims to harsher treatment, they added, “the excess appears to reflect exposure” to police, not more violent police tactics during encounters.”

The study analyzed records from every state to calculate a nationwide estimate of police-inflicted injuries and deaths in order to compare and contrast police behavioral patterns.

And according to the Los Angeles Times, “The picture it paints is of police actions that fall more heavily on minority populations, even as police mete out violence evenhandedly. When African Americans or Latinos are stopped and questioned by police, the new research found that police arrested them in 82% to 85% of cases,” far lower than the arrest rate for white Americans.

So what happens if you are a victim of police misconduct, or you have a personal injury law case that is racially motivated? Contacting a civil rights attorney will help you get the compensation you deserve. You may also be able to bypass court altogether, as only 4% of personal injury cases ever go to court, leaving a full 96% settled pretrial.

Remember, you have rights, and if you feel as if they have been taken advantage of, a civil rights lawyer can help.

Police Officer Shoots and Kills African-American Man: Falcon Heights, Minnesota

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A St. Anthony police officer shot and killed 32-year-old Philando Castile during a traffic stop last night in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.  The vehicle he was driving was reportedly pulled over for a broken taillight.  Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, took video of the horrifying aftermath of this tragic shooting.  Reynolds is heard on the video stating that Castile had a permit to carry a gun and was just trying to get his ID when he was shot “for no apparent reason.”  There has been continuing news coverage of this terrible event.  Governor Dayton made a statement that: “Justice will be served in Minnesota.”

A “Tragic Death”

Castile was a valued employee of the St. Paul School District since 2002.  The school district stated that he was “smart, respectful and kind.”  Castile graduated from Central High School in 2001 and began working for the district shortly afterward.

GBBS Helps Victims of Police Misconduct

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects people like Castile from the unreasonable use of deadly force by police officers.  If you feel you have been a victim of police brutality, excessive force or other police abuse, please contact Gaskins Bennett Birrell Schupp, L.L.P.  Our team of civil rights lawyers has a record of success that is unmatched in the State of Minnesota.  We have recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of police shooting victims and other excessive force cases throughout the Midwest.