A U.S. District Court judge abruptly dismissed a trial last week that involved abuse allegations at the regional jail because the plaintiff, Chadwick Yancey, 32, exhibited a “blatant disrespect for the process.”
Yancey, a former inmate at the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facilities, brought the suit before the Portland federal court on the grounds that his civil rights had been violated. He claimed to have been the victim of excessive force by guards in April 2009 that was knowingly and deliberately covered up by Wasco County authorities.
“It became clear to me that he (Yancey) had no intention of abiding by any ruling I made. I was also increasingly concerned that his frequent references to excluded evidence were making the trial fundamentally unfair to
defendants. As a result, I dismissed the case with prejudice,” wrote Judge Michael Mosman in his Jan. 24 opinion.
To have the case dismissed with prejudice means that the issue cannot be brought back before the court, according to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.
“I assume that Mr. Yancey may not have fully appreciated what ‘with prejudice’ meant and that he may not have appreciated that there would be no second trial on his Monell (case law used as basis of suit) claim,” wrote Mosman. “If he thought he would be back in court again, his reaction to the dismissal revealed whether he could in fact control himself at any future trial. He threatened the defendants individually and said, ‘F—- You,’ to each member of my staff, expressing the wish that each one would die a slow, painful death.
“Amidst other cursing, he demanded a transcript and stated that, in violation of standing court orders in the district, he had secretly taped the entire proceeding. Then, still spewing profanity, he spat on the door to the courtroom on the way out.”
The judge then ended his summation with the Latin term “Aqua et igni interdictus,” which means “Forbidden to be furnished with water and fire; outlawed,” in English.
In a Jan. 25 telephone interview, Yancey said the judge’s actions were part of the government plot to protect Wasco County’s law enforcement and judicial system at the cost of his civil rights. He said it became apparent that he was on his own when two separate attorneys appointed to represent him had to be fired because they tried to force him to settle the case out of court. He was adamantly opposed to cutting any kind of a deal that would not shed light on the “corruption” in jail operations.
“I was suing the government and in order to do that I had to get my evidence from the government, which was edited down to what they wanted to give me, and then a government judge decided what I could use and not use,” he said.
“Every time I tried to talk to the jury, the judge said ‘You’re in violation…’ and I couldn’t even fully explain what was going on in the video,” he said. “I couldn’t bring up anything that shows the extremely violent history that NORCOR has with inmates.”
Yancey was referring to complaints over wrongdoing filed by employees at NORCOR in the mid-2000s and past lawsuits brought by inmates who claimed to have been abused. One of the witnesses he wanted to put on the stand was Michael McDonald, a former inmate who received a settlement for more than $100,000 after filing a lawsuit over being tased multiple times while confined to a restraint chair.
“At one point after the jury had been dismissed so the judge could talk to me about another violation, I told him, ‘Look, it’s obvious that you are super-biased in this case and are not going to let me present my arguments,” said Yancey.
He said there was no reference in Mosman’s final order that he had asked for a new judge to hear the matter and been denied. He said it became so frustrating to deal with what he saw as the “railroading” of his case that his behavior began to reflect his ire — and he wanted his own copy of the proceedings to prevent the facts from being distorted in the official transcript.
“The whole trial was just a big joke, it’s very sad,” said Yancey. “This really calls so-called ‘justice’ into question.”
The major piece of evidence that Yancey planned to show jurors was jail surveillance video footage from April 2009 that he alleged was a demonstration of the abuse he had endured. In the video, which is posted on You Tube, a corrections deputy is shown pushing Yancey, whose hands are restrained behind his back, into the concrete wall in a hallway.
That action said Yancey, broke three teeth and his jaw. He had been incarcerated for 270 days following an arrest in Wasco County for contempt of court after he directed an expletive at the judge eight times during one hearing. He had initially been arrested for a probation violation related to a medical marijuana abuse conviction.
In addition to sustaining facial injuries, Yancey alleged that jail officials failed to provide him with doctor-ordered dental care for five days, despite the pain he was suffering.
Mosman concluded in last weeks’ opinion that Yancey’s case was not “frivolous” and his video evidence made a credible argument for excessive force. He said the defense might also have been able to explain the actions of NORCOR officials as justifiable, so the issue was one that deserved to be decided by a jury.
“It was certainly my hope, to which I devoted my best efforts, to see that this case was decided on the merits,” stated the judge.
Mosman said he ordered Yancey to stick to the facts in his own case and not to reference other instances of alleged misconduct at NORCOR or other settlements. He said the plaintiff was also directed not to swear at or otherwise disrespect the judge or opposing counsel, and not to speak out of turn or interrupt statements being made by other people.
“Although Mr. Yancey viewed these orders only as unfair restrictions on his ability to present his case, they were actually designed to assist him in telling his story to the jury without jeopardizing his case by injecting inadmissible evidence and baseless allegations,” stated the judge.
Mossman wrote that his clerks went to extraordinary lengths to accommodate Yancey because he was representing himself in the legal arena. He said Yancey had a “constant pattern of mugging for the jury, non-verbal mocking of court rulings and opposing arguments and blatant disrespect for the process.”
“My Yancey made several references to not knowing what the rules were and what he was allowed to say or do,” stated the judge. “Although I was initially sympathetic, as I would be with any pro se litigant, it became clear over time that this was largely an act that he used to excuse repeated violations.”
Yancey is unsure what direction he will now take in his quest to get the three guards fired who dealt with him in the jail. He believes that airing the video has made a difference because the administrators in place at the time of his alleged abuse are now gone.
“People need to realize that I’m not some guy who just wants to complain about stuff; bad things are happening to inmates at NORCOR and something needs to be done about it,” he said.
Yancey does not believe Wasco County District Attorney Eric Nisley was ever serious about charging employees at NORCOR for criminal behavior.
“The bottom line in this case is that the court system, the legal system, has rules and Mr. Yancey can’t follow those rules,” said Nisley on Monday.
“People who can’t follow the rules don’t get their day in court — because the rules are meant to provide a fair and even process for all the parties.”
He said the allegations made by Yancey that he and other Wasco County authorities were trying to “cover up” the 2009 incident were groundless because every piece of information that could be legally turned over to the plaintiff for his case was provided.
In a Jan. 15, 2010, letter to Sheriff Rick Eiesland, Nisley stated that he was declining prosecution of the guards that Yancey had accused of violating his rights.
The district attorney wrote that it was his belief, based on a review of the facts, that Yancey had been moved to the wall by a corrections deputy because he was argumentative and angry; refusing to comply with verbal commands from the guards.
Because his feet were not restrained, Nisley said the deputy wanted to avoid being kicked in the face, as had happened in previous incidents with noncompliant inmates. He said use of force was allowed if that discipline was not a gross deviation from a reasonable standard of care. He said the unintentional result of any injury did not turn the disciplinary action into a crime.