Cell Phone Video Contradicts Police, Leads to Acquittal

A Compton, California, jury recently acquitted David Gipson, a 19-year-old charged with illegal gun possession, after cell-phone video cast doubt on the official version of his arrest at a South L.A. party last May:

At a preliminary hearing...[Los Angeles County Sheriff's] Deputy Levi Belville testified that he saw Gipson in the side yard run and toss a loaded revolver onto the roof of a detached garage. The deputy said he ordered Gipson to stop and that the suspect walked back to Belville, who then detained him....

The footage [from another party guest's phone] did not show Gipson running, tossing a gun or walking back to the deputies to be detained. Instead, the grainy video showed deputies arriving and walking past Gipson, who was standing against a wall of the house near the rear of the yard. One of the deputies, Raul Ibarra, returned to Gipson and escorted him to the back of the yard....

Belville later said the video must have been edited, but an expert consulted by the district attorney's office determined that it had not been.

These and other inconsistencies led the jurors to conclude that the sheriff's deputies were lying. "These were not minor inconsistencies," one juror told the Los Angeles Times. "These were outright fabrications....It'll be an injustice...if someone isn't held accountable." Full accountability seems unlikely, since Belville's superiors are ascribing the inaccurate statements to honest errors. Still, the case illustrates the power of cheap and highly portable recording technology to prevent police from inventing an alternative reality. And as defenders of government surveillance like to say about private citizens who don't like being watched, if police have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear. 

That seems to be the attitude of Matthew J. Lyons, an Oceanside, California, police officer whose calm, polite response to a man wielding a cell phone (while openly carrying a gun, no less) I highlighted in June. Last week I discussed the legal challenge to an Illinois statute that makes it a felony to record police in public without their permission. For more on camera-shy cops, see Radley Balko's January cover story in Reason and Reason.tv's May treatment of the subject:

[Thanks to Matt Motherway for the tip.]

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  • Federal Dog||

    Congratulations, David.

    Fucking lying assholes should be indicted for perjury.

  • ||

    Fucking lying assholes should be indicted for perjury.

    Of course they won't be. And that's the double standard that I'm constantly after dunphy about.

  • Mainer||

    The double standard meaning the cops are held to a lower standard than a private citizen...that double standard ?

  • ||

    cops ARE indicted for perjury routinely WHEN there is evidence that supports it.

    one very famous example was mark furhman

  • Mensan||

    I just happens that dash-cams frequently malfunction in many cases where the official story doesn't mesh with witness statements.

  • ||

    if and when cops destroy evidence, they should be punished.

    regardless, i know plenty of cops who have been exonerated, etc. by video. it's a good thing. it protects the good cops, and punishes the bad ones. it also helps protect against false complaints.

    win/win

    one example of a cop that was clearly helped by video was the seattle jaywalking/assault incident where he punched that girl. that video made it crystal clear he acted in accordance with the law and policy\

  • erikjay||

    This is most reasonable. As a longtime watcher-watcher I put the ratio of good/bad cops at about 30/70 -- using an expansive definition of "good," as in "will not shoot you for the hell of it." Regardless of my feelings, unique experiences, or policy prescriptions concerning constables, each case should be looked at independently, of course. No sweeping generalizations (no more sweeping than 70%, I mean) and no group indictments. That's progressive thinking, always in terms of tribe, community, state, nation-state -- some totem or other. Anyway, yup, it's true, video is good for cops AND citizens. It would be nice to see states clarify the right of citizens to record ANY public employee working IN PUBLIC, especially the ones with guns and armored cars. State attorneys general should proactively publicize this clarification. It is absurd and friggin' scary at the same time. Enough is too much!

  • ||

    If they are indicted for perjury routinely, why do they routinely commit perjury? I do not doubt for one second that most cops have no qualms whatsoever about committing perjury when they feel they can get away from it. Which makes it all the more baffling that police testimony is typically given more credence than that of we mundanes.

  • ||

    The older I get the more I hate, fear and despise cops.

  • ||

    All it takes is one encounter with one "bad" cop; or a cop in a bad mood; or a cop who doesn't like your face; or a cop who thinks you aren't being sufficiently respectful of his/her authoritah, and it can fuck up your life.

    There's a perfectly logical reason for that fear.

  • Max||

    Cowardice?

  • ||

    You would know, Edward.

  • ||

    I am the most law abiding person around. And cops make me nervous as hell. They can pretty much arbitrarily take away my freedom and cost me thousands of dollars and my job and my life and my reputation. Even if I am vindicated, I will never get back what I lost and the cop will never be held responsible for treating me unfairly. IF that doesn't make you fearful, you are nuts.

  • ||

    My grandfather used to say about mafia goons "have nothing to do with them, ever, for any reason". I feel the same way about cops.

  • ||

    with emphasis on "feel", because it's emotion based, not fact based

  • Pip||

    Oh shut the fuck up. You're worse than Lonewacko.

  • ||

    i'm sure your mama can get you a fresh hotpocket and wipe your ass for you pip, if yer feelin' down

  • Patooey||

    The thin blue line slowly crumbles.

    More please.

  • Pip||

    That thin blue line isn't thin, it's five miles wide.

  • ||

    waaaaaaah!

  • Pip||

  • ||

    waaaaaaah!

  • Vake||

    Radley Balko singlehandedly shredded that line down from 8 miles wide.

  • ||

    This is why all laws purporting to restrict a citizen's right to record police should be summarily stricken down as unconstitutional violations of the right to due process.

    Taping the police is no more and no less than preserving evidence for a potential criminal trial. How can it possibly be illegal?

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    This.

  • ||

    yup. both sides should be able to record freely. it brings bad cops to justice, helps protect falsely accused (both suspects and cops) from false accusation, and works towards the administration of justice for all

    this is ONE area where i would support federal legislation. federalism aside, i don't think any state should be able to criminalize SURREPTITIOUS audio recording (let alone open recording as per glik), and that a federal law should make it so - unequivocally

  • ||

    This is why they hate cell phones. Cops routinely lie in court. It is a dirty secret but it is true. Mostly they lie about search warrants and consent. If the subject is recording everything, it is a bit hard to claim in court he agreed to the search isn't it?

  • ||

    rubbish. some cops lie.

    regardless, the more recordings that go on, the more the bad cops can get weeded out (and the good cops can be protected)

    that's a good thing

  • A Few Bad Apples||

    Dunpy assures me that this is an isolated incident and not at all typical, because bad cops are taken care of by proper procedures and due process and stuff.

  • ||

    troll-o-meter: .02

    fwiw, if it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that these officers knowingly made material false statements (as it appears they did), they should be convicted of perjury

    period.

    we may let presidents get away with perjury (e.g. clinton) but not cops

  • ||

    It sure sounds plain as day that they should be charged with perjury.

    Which they won't be.

  • ||

    we may let presidents get away with perjury (e.g. clinton) but not cops

    Funny. If only that were true.

  • ||

    So what will you say, dude, if/when these cops are not charged?

  • ||

    i'd have to know the case facts first.

    like i said, ASSUMING the facts are as presented in the reason article, it certainly appears they committed perjury

    iow, they knowingly lied (iow weren't merely mistaken, or recollected incorrectly or something) and about something that was clearly material.

    *if* in fact

    1) that turns out to be the case
    and
    2) it can be proven as so,

    it should be prosecuted

    btw, mark furhman took a guilty plea for perjury. he's a convicted felon now

  • ||

    I didn't ask whether it should be prosecuted; we seem to agree on that. I asked what your response would be if the officer isn't charged.

  • ||

    my response would be contingent on knowing why it wasn't

    iow, all i know right now is what is claimed in the reason article. if they are subsequently not charged, i would have to know WHY before i could make a decision as to whether that was the just/correct decision

    i realize that it's natural for cop critics to naturally assume all inculpatory claims about cops are correct, and the claims in this case MAY be, but i have no way of knowing it

    if what the article claims is true, then of course they should be prosecuted but i don't know all the case facts, nor do you.

    i would LOVE to see the video fwiw, as well as have copies of the officer's reports, so i can know if perjury occurred.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    A big part of the reason you come of as such a bitch in threads like this is that you claim skepticism to a degree that would make Descartes and his evil genius blush, all while knowing full well that the cops and their internal investigations will bury any evidence that could put your skepticism to rest. It's all very convenient and self-serving.

    Cops make "honest mistakes." Proles without the guns, badges, and training are held to much higher standards of conduct and whether you can't see it or willfully ignore it doesn't really matter much.

  • erikjay||

    I don't think Mr. Dunphellow (that is what "dunphy" is short for, right?) is pushing the bounds of skepticism at all. I don't like chiming in about jury verdicts when I am not on the jury, and certainly don't trust nitwits like Nancy Grace and her ilk to bring me "the story" about various high-profile trials.

    It scares me how people think they have the "facts" from watching a trial on television, or reading a newspaper account or (gasp) blog. Scarier than rogue cops... almost. The wobbly jury system, populated by ever more magical thinkers and semi-literates, is still one of the major bulwarks against the police state -- as witness this case. Smart phones and other technologies are important tools, as well.

    As always, of course, it is our own hubris that will defeat us if we start lowering our standards of evidence and commitment to reason because, doggone it, we're just so darn smart. I used to say, "No one's always right, but I am rarely wrong." What a jerk.

    For 15 years now into my non-jerk life, I have been seeking out all the people that agreed with me, just to tell 'em I managed to survive my brush with omniscience. It was close.

  • ||

    Is it possible that Fuhrman was only charged with perjury because he was found to have lied during the most publicized trial in U.S. history? If he lied in court at a trial involving an immigrant charged with DWI I doubt he would have been charged with anything.

  • ||

    it certainly probably WAS a contributing factor. in the opinion of some people he didn't even COMMIT perjury (it was arguably non-material) but they overcharged him because of the publicity.

    that's the flip side.

    regardless, he decided he was going to resign anyway (he had more than enough years to get his pension), and he decided to take the plea vs. risk jail time

    he's done a LOT of good since he resigned, by helping solve cold murder cases among other things. a great guy

  • Chatroom Crank||

    "Overcharged" you mean like they do to every citizen who is taken into court and something which very seldom happens to cops.

  • ||

    very frequently happens to cops e.g. amadou diallo case.

    but i am getting the impression tyou are just trolling. maybe the name is giving you away :l

  • T||

    Belville's superiors are ascribing the inaccurate statements to honest errors

    So, any bets on the perjury trial, dunphy? I'll take "doesn't fucking happen" for $20.

  • ||

    i have no "bets" because i don't know enough case facts. i just know what is claimed in the article.

    if what the article claims is true and it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt then it absolutely should be.

  • Chatroom Crank||

    His testimony was completely refuted by the video. So he was 1) Lying, 2) Dangerously Deranged, or 3) Under the influence of some kind of mind altering substance. All the way around he should lose his job and pension.

  • ||

    and again, if the facts turn out to be as claimed in the reason article i 100% agree.

    there is no disagreement here on that. if he committed perjury and it can be proven, then he should be charged. period

  • Mr. Mark||

    Yet another example of the kinds of people to whom we regularly delegate serious authority, but who are unsuited to wield so much as the power of a hall monitor in grade school.

  • T||

    Here's my thought: cops lie all the fucking time. When the cop writes you that ticket for 65 instead of 75, he's lying. We don't bitch, because it's a lie in our favor. But if he'll lie for no real reason in that case, why wouldn't he lie when he has a reason?

  • ||

    that's been discussed before. it's not a lie, and it's been explained. it's a lesser included offense. prosecutors do this all time - charge for a lesser included offense. cops can do it too with traffic tickets

  • Pip||

  • T||

    When you write on that document that I was going 65 and not 75, you lied. If you simply write down a charge, you didn't. I trust even you can understand the difference.

  • ||

    if it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that these officers knowingly made material false statements (as it appears they did), they should be convicted of perjury

    And be sentenced to prison and put in with the general prison population, with no special privileges or protections.

  • ||

    here we go with this crap again

    being put in a special population is NOT a special privilege of police. it is routinely used for all sorts of offenders who would be placed at special risk by being placed in the general population. it is not exclusive to cops, and it is part of rule of law and due process, unless you support extrajudicial punishment

    oh, and many first time offenders with no priors are routinely sentenced to PROBATION for a first offense of a crime like perjury. if you want the SAME treatment for cops, you accept that.

    but then again, that's rarely true here. people want their pound of flesh and extra harsh treatment for them

  • T||

    people want their pound of flesh and extra harsh treatment for them

    I dunno about pound of flesh, but extra harsh treatment? Yup. You hold a position of public trust and responsibility, and when you fuck that up you should get hammered harder than some dirtbag who has never held anything other than his dick. Applies to cops, judges, politicians, and anybody else with a position of trust and responsibility in the government.

  • ||

    fair enough. i disagree. i prefer EQUAL treatment

  • ||

    What is your response to this?
    http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_.....rt_li.html

  • ||

    disgusting. if he lied under oath about a material issue that's perjury.

  • Chatroom Crank||

    Fine, then you have the exact same powers as a citizen. No more committing battery because some citizen didn't "comply". If you want the power, you pay for it.

  • ||

    cops are not allowed to commit battery if a citizen doesn't comply.

    a store security guard, a private person defending his own property, or a cop enforcing the law are ALL allowed to use physical force to effects arrests/protect property, as long as it is reasonable

    in no cases is that force "battery" since it's legally justified.

  • Gojira||

    I've told a lot of people what to do over the years, and I am mostly ignored (and rightly so, because I'm usually making a ridiculous request that no rational person would or should respond to).

    And yet I have never been able once to cite them with "Failure to Obey a Lawful Order". So no, we are not equal, in any way. I cannot force someone to do what I tell them because it's a "lawful order" based almost entirely on the facts that, 1) it's an order, and 2) I'm wearing a badge, which makes it lawful.

    You have the power to order people, and to take adverse action against them if they choose not to obey you. A normal person does not have that ability. It is in no way an equal relationship, and does not deserve equal treatment under the law.

  • ||

    What was I thinking? A cop who walks into court and commits perjury should, if found out and convicted of that perjury, get a letter of reprimand and a thirty day paid vacation. Because that's what would happen to any random "civilian" in the same circumstances.

  • ||

    no , he should get fired and get (at a minimum) the same penalty that anybody else with no priors who commits perjury gets.

    equal treatment under the law

    also, this reason meme about "paid vacations" is stupid. paid admin leave is NOT punishment. it's what's done in some investigations PRIOR to punishment (during investigatory phase).

  • Mensan||

    Serious question, dunphy: If an officer is placed on paid leave while under investigation, and the outcome of the investigation results in suspension or firing, is that pay recouped?

  • ||

    no. nor should it be. the admin leave is to protect everybody - the cop, the people under his service, etc.

    admin leave is used in all sorts of circs that don't involve misconduct btw - such as police shootings (which are almost always not misconduct) or stressful incidents, etc.

    for example, when i had a guy blow his head off right next to me after i tried to talk him out of it for 15 minutes, i got a week of admin leave. that's routine.

  • Chatroom Crank||

    It protects everyone but the tax paying citizens. We get screwed. If you need a fucking day off, take a vacation day.

  • ||

    first of all, it's not the cop in the cases of investigation that "needs the day off", it's the dept. mandating it. so, he shouldn't have to pay for it.

    in the case of admin leave like for the suicide case, in that case, it is job related stress, and under collective bargaining, labor and industries policy, etc. it *is* the taxpayer that has to pay for the time off.

    as it should be, since it's job related.

    it's not a vacation. police dept's should be paying more, not less, attention to mental health issues. that protects both cops AND the people they serve.

    stress related diseases as well as the potential for improper responses by police suffering from stress related emotional trauma will cost the public a fuck of a lot more than admin leave.

    on a cost/benefit analysis, it's smarter to use the admin leave

  • Capt Buzzy||

    Admin Leave is a pretty severe pay-cut; you get paid forty hours a week for doing nothing vice getting 40 hours plus OT plus shaking down hookers and crack heads for blow jobs and drugs.

  • Mensan||

    So, if that pay is not (and, in your words, should not be) recouped when an officer is placed on leave due to his own misconduct, then isn't he essentially being rewarded for that misconduct?

    I'm not taking issue with paid leave for the other situations you described. I'm only talking about cases of actual misconduct.

  • ||

    no. not unless one considers admin leave a "reward". i know you may think of it that way, but i certainly don't.

    when a cop is on admin leave for potential misconduct (vs. general admin leave), they are under rather strict guidelenes btw that vary dept. to dept. but it's not exactly like vacation

    regardless, the point of admin leave is to protect all involved. if it seems like a reward , so be it. that's not its purpose

  • Capt Buzzy||

    So if they are exonerated; will they get paid for the overtime they did not work. but would have worked? Judge says "Back Pay, Bitches".

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    You mean equal treatment like someone would get for murdering a cop as opposed to a random citizen? Oh, wait, one is capital murder and one isn't.

  • PBA Rep||

    Whoa, whoa, whoa! I letter of reprimand? That'll stay in his record until he moves to a different agency. That's way too harsh. A verbal reprimand and 30 days of paid leave will suffice.

  • ||

    Go ahead and toss out some anecdote which "proves" cops' testimony holds no more weight than any other sworn witness on the stand, Fosdick.

  • ||

    actually, it;'s quite the opposite. juries tend to believe cops more than the average person. again, i've quoted plenty of polls that show people tend to respect people in certain professions more than others

    cops, teachers, and military personnel tend to get much greater respect than journalists or lawyers

    not surprising you have no fucking idea what yer talking about, since i would make the exact OPPOSITE claim of what you proposed.

    in a trial, the jury is tasked with weighing the credibility of a witness - they tend to give cops MORE than most other people

    hth

  • Chatroom Crank||

    And how badly will the judge hammer the defense if they dare try to show the cop is a lying sack of shit? The judges protect the cops who protect the judges. A giant circle jerk.

  • ||

    any attack by the defense (or prosecutor) upon a witness must have a basis in demonstrable evidence, etc. that's true of ALL witnesses, to include police.

    see: courtroom procedure.

    a defense has every right to try to show a cop is a lying sack of shit AS LONG AS they have an evidentiary basis for it

    same of ANY witness.

    in a DV case, even if the defense suspects the "victim" is lying, they cannot just start attacking the victim because they SUSPECT it.

    evidence: it's what's for dinner

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Simple solution:

    Require microphones and video devices on all public officials.

    I'd say "off-duty" too, but that's not gonna happen.

  • ||

    juries tend to believe cops more than the average person.

    They do, indeed. So a cop who commits perjury should be punished more severely. But that goes against your baboon troop loyalty oath.

  • ||

    no, it goes against the concept of equal justice under the law.

    i realize that many reasonoid anti-cop bigots with their baboon loyalty to their hatred don't believe in equal justice, but i do

  • Chatroom Crank||

    But you aren't equal. You are a government employee. Less than a citizen. Scum of the earth. Not fit for the company of honest men.

  • ||

    lo. nice

  • Ben P.||

    And yet in some cases the law does recognize that the inherent inequality of certain relationships does matter before the bar of justice.

    The crime of 'Elder Abuse', in most jurisdictions that I know of, for example, specifically requires that there be a relationship or duty of giving care, or trust, between the elderly victim and the accused.

    Likewise, all jokes and snide comments about being killed resisting arrest aside, the law does recognize a greater punishment for killing a peace officer than killing a civilian *if all other factors are equal*.

    Why can you not accept that in some cases, precisely because of the inherent power imbalance between a police officer and a citizen, a crime committed by a police officer *should* be charged or weighted more heavily, then?

  • ||

    juries tend to believe cops more than the average person.

    Depending how you parse this, it could also be interpreted as another reason not to let your fate fall into the hands of twelve people who aren't even smart enough to evade jury duty.

  • ||

    hey, you can always request a bench trial instead.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    And get a judge too stupid or young to be doing appellate or private practice work? No thanks.

  • The corpse of Johnny Cochran ||

    If the video contradicts, you must acquit!

  • *.*||

    "Full accountability seems unlikely, since Belville's superiors are ascribing the inaccurate statements to honest errors. "

    See Dunphy, your wrong again about most cops being honest guys. The entire fucking department writes it off as honest errors.

    So fuck you and all your brethren. And btw, good work for turning an honest guy like me against the cops. I always told my kids and still tell the grandkids to never ever talk to the cops, they are not your friends.

  • ||

    That's terrible advice, you should tell them to never tell the cops anything that can be PROVEN false

  • Kristen||

    No, that's terrible advice. You should never talk to the cops for any reason, ever. Not even a "hello, officer".

  • ||

    Clearly dunphy is a cop or an ex-cop or simply someone who genuflects everytime one of our police(samurai/overlords) officers walks by. We get it buddy, you can give your police apologetics a rest.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    You don't need to deduce that he's cop, he's quite open about that.

  • VikingMoose||

    dunphy sounds like an anti vax wackaloon. "I'm not anti vax. I'm pro safe vax" "I'm pro equal protection"

    heh. what a gai, that dunphy. gawd, wouldn't it be funneh if he woke up covered in santorum and still somewhat inside of the Noam Chomsky Blow Up Doll?

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