Here in my hometown of Santa Rosa, we have a case of a police officer brutalizing a suspect and then lying on the witness stand in a very important case: jaywalking. Celeste Moon is a 51 year old single mother and culinary student at Santa Rosa Junior College. She was walking home one afternoon when she heard someone shout at her about waiting for the light. When she heard a car door slam and someone coming toward her, she ran. She was afraid it was one of our many local thugs. It turned out to be Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Blount. But what happened next makes one wonder if there is much difference between our local thugs and our sheriff’s deputies.
When Blount caught up to her, he arrested her and hurt her while trying to put handcuffs on her. That’s pretty standard. The police are not known for being very gentle or, frankly, caring in the least about it. As you can see in the video below, Blount puts Moon in a headlock and slams he to the ground where she begins screaming. Five police vehicles were then called in for “back up” because of this dangerous 51 year old single mother. Even though you can only see the two from about shoulder height, the video is quite upsetting.
This seems a pretty typical case. Law enforcement officers have a perpetual chip on their shoulders. The worst thing you can do to one is not treat them with all the respect that they think they deserve — and never think they have to earn. So this whole case has nothing to do with jaywalking and everything to do with the bruised ego of Deputy Blount. But the story here is not about what seems obviously excessive force. There apparently is no such thing in modern America. Moon ought to be thankful that Blount didn’t just shoot her in the back and then drop a taser at her feet.
The story here is that the video surfaced after Blount did what law enforcement officers do every day when they go to court: lie. According to The Press Democrat, “The video, taken by a neighbor, contradicts Blount’s court testimony earlier this week that he placed both of his hands on Moon’s shoulders and pushed her down, said Moon’s lawyer, Izaak Schwaiger.” Well of course it did. If sheriff’s deputies like Blount said what they really did on a daily basis, the world would be a much different — and more just — place.
But the truth is that as a society, we don’t want to know. Most people will never find themselves in Moon’s situation. So they figure that all the police brutality and lying is just fine. It is all in the service of keeping us all safe. But of course, it isn’t. The fact that Blount felt the need to treat this middle aged woman this way is a good indication that he’s not in the habit of having to deal with truly dangerous situations. In his mind, “keeping order” has probably fully merged with “people respecting me.”
Blount is a “17-year law enforcement veteran.” According to a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department, Blont was was probably just testifying to the best of his memory. I kind of doubt that. The description — placed both hands on Moon’s shoulders and pushed her down — sounds too “edited for sensitive viewers.” But there is little doubt that the deputy didn’t think much of it at the time.
The real problem is not Blount, of course. What really amazes me is that given this clear evidence that Blount either knowingly lied on the stand or doesn’t remember the case clearly enough to testify, Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite didn’t throw out the case. Now I don’t know, but I assume that the only evidence against Moon is Blount’s testimony. Instead of throwing it out, the judge “directed prosecutors to consider whether the gap between his testimony and the video affects the deputy’s credibility.” So justice is left up to the DA — as usual. And no groups are closer than the DA and police. I would assume that the DA will try to strike some deal where they drop charges in exchange for Moon not suing the county.
The injustices in this country are so many. This isn’t a case of law enforcement murder. But it is part of the same system and the same problem. And all of us are culpable for allow it to continue on.