Detroit officers cleared in cavity search case
DETROIT — A jury on Wednesday cleared a Detroit police officer of wrongdoing in a lawsuit that accused him of conducting an illegal search by sticking his finger in the rectum of a suspect during a traffic stop and drug arrest.
Jurors deliberated for about an hour before saying they found no evidence to support Terence Hopkins' assertion that Sgt. Michael Osman gave him an illegal body cavity search in 2006 while Officer Michael Parish stood by and did nothing.
Hopkins was arrested for possession of marijuana and ecstasy and subsequently agreed to a plea bargain with prosecutors.
The verdict in Wayne County Circuit Court marked a reversal of fortunes for the city, which has paid more than $700,000 in settlements to four men who brought similar claims against the officers. Those settlements were deemed inadmissible as evidence during the Hopkins case.
"It's a slam dunk," Osman told The Associated Press. "Nothing they're alleging happened."
Parish, who was cleared of gross negligence, called the lawsuit a "sham."
Hopkins was seeking at least $1 million. But the evidence was thin, and included Hopkins' own words and the testimony of two men who said they had been illegally groped by the officers in separate incidents.
"War doesn't justify war crimes," Hopkins attorney, Marvin Barnett, told the jury of the police department's efforts to stop drugs in a tough neighborhood. "You can't beat people, torture people under the name of war."
He said the jury's verdict left him "speechless."
Hopkins called the verdict "disgusting" - the same word used by Osman when he denied under oath sticking his finger in Hopkins' rectum.
Among the payments Detroit has made to settle similar claims against the officers are two of $349,000 each to two men who didn't file lawsuits. The city's law department handled those claims without the knowledge or approval of the City Council, and Deputy Mayor Saul Green has vowed to investigate.
In January, the city settled a lawsuit for $20,000 and agreed to instruct police officers on proper body searches after a man claimed his genitals were squeezed by Parish.
There are at least five lawsuits pending against the "booty boys," as Osman and Parish have been derisively nicknamed in southwest Detroit.
John Schapka, at attorney for the officers, said Hopkins was a drug user who was "whacked out of his mind" at the time and lied about the incident.
Schapka said it makes no sense for Osman to stick a finger in someone's rectum.
"Why would anyone in their right mind or wrong mind do that in the age of AIDS?" he said in his closing argument. "Most of us are skittish of a public bathroom and touching the doorknob."
Parish's father said his son isn't a rogue cop and even carries a copy of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
"He's a very professional officer. His attitude is grab the criminals, lock 'em up and the rest is up to the prosecutor," said Ronald Parish, a retired lawyer.