The headline on this Monday's Mason County Press (MCP) reads "Ludington council expected to settle suit with local criminal.", a headline being a bit more severe on the plaintiff of a federal lawsuit than the local City of Ludington Daily News (COLDNews) story in Saturday's paper. Before this Friday, when I learned of this lawsuit, which was filed in 2013 and was able to view some of the court records, I may have agreed with MCP Editor Rob Always' assessment of the situation.
Travis Malone: Criminal
Travis Malone made quite an infamous name for himself in 2012 when he was seventeen. His known crime spree started off on June 5, 2012 when he broke into Journey High School, he was apprehended and sentenced to probation in September 2012. While on probation, he allegedly set fire to a house at 301 N. William Street with Marshall Brault's assistance on October 20. The team of Brault and Malone then stole a F-150 truck from Ludington and rode it into the side of the Wishing Well. You may remember the video footage of that incident showing Brault heisting some cigarettes and alcohol while Malone readied the getaway vehicle.
Brault, two years older than Malone, was said to be the main catalyst for the actions by Malone and another youth involved only with joyriding earlier with the two. Nevertheless, on July 17, 2013, both were sentenced to approximately the same time (roughly 5-15 years) for the crimes in both Mason and Oceana Counties. Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola remarked that it was clear that Malone “cannot abide by the laws of civilized society and has no respect for the safety and property of others.” Remember that.
Travis Malone: Victim
One wonders what could have made Travis Malone such a menace to society back in 2012. There could have been many factors-- maybe a broken home, maybe a bad choice of friends with Brault, maybe some other bad choices of how to live his life-- these are almost impossible to verify without more data. But there was seemingly an event that happened before Travis Malone went real bad that must have helped him get a very bad impression of the community he was living in.
On August 4th of 2011, Travis was a sixteen year old enjoying Teen Night at the Tiki Nightclub. He and a group of seven left after a fight broke out at the club, apparently not involving them. Ludington Police (LPD) Officer Matthew York stopped the group about three blocks south of the Tiki and was joined there by Aaron Sailor. The odor of alcohol was noted by Officer York, who then tried to figure out who was drunk and who wasn't. What happened next is disputed between the memory of the three principals.
In his complaint (Malone-Sailor-York-complaint.pdf), Malone relates that he was singled out by the officers, his shirt was pulled, he was called names. Officer Sailor grabbed him by the neck, and he was punched and kicked in the ribs as the officers took him to the ground and handcuffed him. Officer York stood on his neck. They put him in the car, then took him out, and threw him on the ground striking the curb and losing consciousness, all the while in handcuffs and compliant. He woke up to more hits in the ribs. As they drove away the officer stopped the vehicle causing Malone to strike the cage with his face.
Malone's rough and fairly general complaint would likely have been more or less verified by his friends that remained. The statement of facts in the defendant's brief for summary disposition paint a rosier scenario where the police officers involved are portrayed as being well-trained and always acting appropriately, but when looked at objectively and even in a favorable light to the officers, they do not exculpate the officers of violating the rights of Travis Malone (read those here starting on page 178 ) that night.
They try to arrest Malone for minor in possession by just the odor of alcohol being in the vicinity of him. A trained police officer would know that the correct protocol would be to ask for a breath test at that point; noting that refusal would subject Malone to a civil infraction (see MCL 436.1703 subsection 7 for protocols) and give reasonable suspicion that could have led to a frisking and detention.
That didn't happen, even if you give the officers the benefit of their testimony they proceeded to use force to detain Malone absent any suspicion other than an odor and without any articulated reason, searched Malone's person, seized Malone's backpack, and effectively violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment.
In dispute was the severity of the beat-down and as I don't have privy to the witnesses and the LPD did not record this encounters (suspicious in itself, since Officer York has had dashcam equipped cars in the past), let's consider the rich history of Officers York and Sailor in the realm of police brutality lawsuits, and failed protocols.
Officer York was the officer that stopped Sue and Joe McAdam in 2009. York's lack of communicating to his fellow officers no doubt helped Joe McAdam get brutalized that night both on the street and at the hospital, but his LPD dashcam also caught him roughly handcuffing Sue McAdam at the end of the video for DUI without any breath test offered and without any field sobriety tests administered. This was after he restrained her for trying to help her son who was taken down in the street and repeatedly tased for doing nothing illegal.
Officer Sailor has a record of beating up innocent people, he should not be on the streets with at least four federal police brutality cases against him that have been settled by the taxpayers of Pontiac and Ludington in his brief career in law enforcement. There was Leary v. Pontiac where he and his partner beat up a house sitter and her guest, there was M.P. et. al. v. Pontiac where he and his partners beat up the people who called him with fists and flashlights who he admits were not a threat, there was Burns v. Sailor where he unlawfully entered a Ludington residence and pushed a lady to the ground from behind. And this one.
Is it a stretch to believe these officers may have allowed their inability to follow protocol extend to them not using the proper amount of force needed to arrest someone? The taxpayers won't ever figure this out, because it never gets to court and the officers never get sanctions issued by their city or police departments. In fact, they generally get praised and commended by their superiors.
Genesis of a Criminal
If we presume that Malone was denied his basic rights back in 2011 is it a stretch to believe that the injustice suffered and the punishment meted out by the courts courtesy of the LPD officer's version of events that night, led Malone to become the monster Spaniola called him in 2012, and the criminal label offered by Rob Alway before the City settled with Malone, therefore vindicating his complaint?
Recall Spaniola said Malone "cannot abide by the laws of civilized society and has no respect for the safety and property of others." If we are to give any merit to Malone's lawsuit, and the City of Ludington obviously did by accepting the settlement, then can we then not say that Spaniola's epithet applies to the two officers of the city, who taught the young Malone that using violence, seizing property, and acting outside the law were condoned by our community?
Well done X. It does seem strange that an officer with 4 excessive force complaints is not considered a problem by his boss or the City. It certainly concerns me. Ludington has some officers who need to learn how to deal with people and I think it would be an excellent idea that all officers be retrained on how to relate to the people they are hired to protect. As far as Mr. Malone is concerned, It may be that he was guided into his criminal spree by the local police but the final analyses is that Malone knew right from wrong and chose "wrong" and from the damage he did he deserved his sentence. I'm sure that when Malone is released from prison he will be much more knowledgeable about crime and his attitude will be substantially different than when he went in. A young man cannot spend time in prison with older prisoners without being physically and mentally abused. Add to that the impact of loosing one's freedom and having to live in a cage for years on end and you have a recipe for the making of another life long criminal. I hope his life will turn out for the better.
It's rather timely that they decided this right on the same day that a Missouri grand jury decided that the Michael Brown shooting by Officer Wilson in Ferguson was justified. I was glancing through the Sept. 3 Grand Jury edited testimony transcripts and seen this as a bit troubling (Q is the county prosecutor, A is the investigating detective of the shooting):
Am I nuts or does it make anyone else uneasy that the person lying on the ground with 12 bullet holes riddled through his body is the one assigned with the "assaulter" label and the shooter, the only one with the gun, is the victim by default of the lead investigator, absent any facts?
Travis Malone was not a choir boy when he was stopped back in 2011, but he didn't deserve what he got from the LPD officers. By reputation, Yorkie and 'Dirty Aary' Sailor have little regard for the fine points of their training, to put it lightly.
I would think the city of Ludingtons insurance company would be looking into these lawsuits and wondering why the city still has these officers still on the payroll. It seems that the city fathers could care less that we have policemen beating the hell out of the citizens for no apparent reason. On the Ferguson incident, Looking at the facts, Brown did attack officer Willson first making Wilson the first victim ,Brown the second victim when Wilson shot and killed him and the mom & pop stores that were destroyed for no reason last night the third victims .
In the Ferguson case, I think the police made some of their own problems by not being very transparent and somewhat dismissive of their population, where rumor and prejudice took hold and were stoked by outside agitators. If Wilson had a dash cam and was miked (or had a camera on his lapel) some of the questions about this incident would have been crystal clear. If this incident has any positive value, perhaps it will lead more cities to mandate personal cameras for their officers.
In Ludington, the officials cannot admit to their own mistakes or lack of ethical conduct when caught, this is proven over and over again. But they often do things quietly behind the scenes without acknowledgement by the local press to right things.
Officer York 'resigned' a couple of years ago to go to the Dearborn PD. Officer Warmuskerken made the lateral move over to the Mason County Sheriff's Office. They allowed the removal of their bathroom cams when I was prepared to make it a big deal. Without fanfare, they have amended their FOIA practices, and their open and closed meeting practices (sometimes for the better) on advice from their attorneys. There is progress, but it is done covertly.
I completely agree with you X especially about the cams. Police had better understand that they can no longer wiggle their noses and "poof" everything's OK. A cam would have settled this matter in Ferguson a long time ago. Now the officer who shot the man is in danger from death threats as well as the jurists. The only thing I would like to see with cams is that the videos and any copies be deleted after 30 days if no crime has been committed. This would keep authorities from having all the videos of innocent civilians and their personal information that may be on the videos. As far as those #&@^&@ rioters, they should been shooting them as they destroyed other peoples lives.
Well i beleieve that brown was killed by that cop cause their was no reason to be shot that many times n cops do plant stuff on people , lie, n cover up for their selfs n i feel that Mr. Wilson should of been put in prison for his actions because now it shows that because of what he did , it's ok for the rest to do it to, Look at mister Marble, and I to beleieve cops do need to have to be retrained but by some one that isn't from around here, Someone VERY VERY HIGHER UP, someone that does not go for them lies, n cheatering ways. that means business!!! or the corupted justice systom will NEVER STOP!!!!
Don't forget this situation occurred on the street in front of many witnesses and the trail left by Brown stretched from the store owner that he strong armed and robbed to his demise in the street. Because there were many witnesses to this incident, Officer Wilson's testimony was only part of the verbal evidence. He was found not guilty in a very long drawn out process, so there was plenty of time for the liberal and biased press along with the communists left supported by Sharpton and Jackson to dig into the situation to try and hang officer Wilson but they could not because there was no evidence on which to convict him.
I think if I was a store owner in Ferguson I would have been in my store with a arsenal of weapons picking those looters off one by one as they came in and stack them up like cord wood. Thats what the mayor should have told the police, Looters will be shot on site.
An enactment allowing sensible 'frontier justice' for defending your property by the mayor or governor would have quelled some of the street garbage looking for a little 'social justice' by looting their neighbors' house or business.
Let's remember some great men came up with the idea that a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Nothing better to deter someone breaking into and ransacking a mom and pop store than mom and pop opposite the business end of a shotgun, and a security camera showing that the shooting was justified (by the way, see this story of this idea in action).
Maybe some of these mindless riots would have turned into meaningful and peaceful protests.
Nothing says you care about the situation more than looting and burning your neighbors property to the ground. That kid was a thug and he got what he deserved . Wilson saved the state a lot of money because somewhere down the line the taxpayers would have paid for Browns prison stay.
A current situation out of Denver illustrates why Ludington people should be concerned even if their elected officials have nothing but praise for both of our officers involved in beating up this kid. Video has the police doing the usual brutality exercises on a man punching his face into the ground because he had a sock in his mouth they thought had illegal drugs in, then it swings over to show a pregnant woman bystander leg-sweeped for being too close to the action. So they could not include these acts on their police reports, they go over to a man who was recording their actions, snatch his camera and erase his footage.
Thankfully, the footage was stored in the cloud, and survived as did their incomplete police reports and their victims, who may be pillars or dregs of society, but deserve justice from their assaulters. Good job, Fox 31.