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After 5 Years, Ferguson Drops Bogus Charges That Cost Navy Veteran His Job

Fred Watson, who was mentioned in a DOJ report on abuses by Ferguson police, says he was arrested and prosecuted for no good reason.

Steve Pellegrino/ZUMA Press/NewscomSteve Pellegrino/ZUMA Press/NewscomIn its 2015 report on the Ferguson, Missouri, police department's rights-violating, revenue-maximizing enforcement of the city's municipal code, the Justice Department described a 32-year-old African-American man who was accosted by a cop while "sitting in his car cooling off after playing basketball" in a local park on a summer afternoon in 2012. That man was Fred Watson, a Navy veteran who at the time worked as a cybersecurity contractor for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. His encounter with Ferguson Officer Eddie Boyd III resulted in nine charges that caused Watson to lose his security clearance and his job. Yesterday, more than five years after the incident, the city of Ferguson finally dropped all nine charges against Watson.

According to a federal awsuit that Watson filed against Boyd and the city last July, the officer approached him as he sat in his parked car and shouted, "Put your hand on the steering wheel! Do you know why I'm stopping you? Do you know why I pulled you over?" Boyd's command and questions struck Watson as strange, inasmuch as he had not been pulled over. He pointed that out to Boyd, who demanded his driver's license, proof of insurance, and Social Security number.

When Watson asked why Boyd needed that information, since he had no reason to think Watson had done anything wrong, Boyd suggested that Watson might be a pedophile, looking for victims at the park. When Boyd indicated that he planned to write Watson a ticket, Watson asked why, and Boyd replied, "I think your tint is too dark, and I can give you a ticket for that." Lest you get the wrong impression, I should clarify that Boyd, one of Ferguson's few black officers, was referring to the windows of Watson's car.

In addition to asking why he was being detained, Watson did several things that apparently irked Boyd. He offered to retrieve his driver's license from the rear seat but declined to give his Social Security number. He asked for Boyd's name and badge number (which Boyd refused to give). He picked up his phone and tried to call 911. He declined to toss his car keys out the window, worried about how Boyd, who at this point had taken out his gun, might respond if he again moved his hands from the steering wheel. He refused to consent to a search of his car.

After three other officers arrived at the scene, Boyd handcuffed Watson and took him to the police station. The car was towed, and according to the complaint Boyd repeatedly searched it without consent or probable cause. Watson had to pay a $700 bond to get out of jail. When he retrieved the vehicle, he says, his possessions were in disarray, and $2,000 (tuition money for his kids) was missing.

Watson initially faced seven charges, including driving without a license (which he had), driving without proper insurance (ditto), driving an unregistered car (the registration was in the vehicle), and driving a car with windows that were illegally tinted (which, according to the complaint, they weren't). Boyd even charged Watson, who was sitting in a parked car, with failure to wear a seat belt. After Watson tried to file a complaint with the police department about Boyd's behavior, the officer tacked on two more charges: making a false declaration and failing to comply with a police officer's order.

Boyd probably expected Watson to swallow his pride and pay his fines, but instead he fought the charges. The city dragged out the case for years, and as a result Watson lost the top-secret security clearance he needed to keep his job. "Without this clearance, Mr. Watson is unable to find employment in the highly specialized field of government cybersecurity," the lawsuit says. "As a result, he has remained jobless for most of the past five years and is now undertaking efforts to begin a new career."

By dropping the charges now, Ferguson Prosecuting Attorney Lee Clayton Goodman lends credibility to Watson's case against Boyd and the city, which accuses them of violating his rights under the Fourth, First, and 14th amendments. The New York Times says Goodman "declined to discuss the matter."

Last year the Times noted that as a St. Louis police officer, Boyd "pistol-whipped a 12-year-old girl in the face in 2006, and in 2007 struck a child in the face with his gun or handcuffs before falsifying a police report, according to Missouri Department of Public Safety Records." In addition to Watson's lawsuit, Boyd "is being sued by a woman in Ferguson who said he arrested her after she asked for his name at the scene of a traffic accident."

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...I should clarify that Boyd, one of Ferguson's few black officers, was referring to the windows of Watson's car.

    Once you don the badge, the only colors you can see are blue and not blue.

  • tatap||

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  • Hugh Akston||

    Last year the Times noted that as a St. Louis police officer, Boyd "pistol-whipped a 12-year-old girl in the face in 2006, and in 2007 struck a child in the face with his gun or handcuffs before falsifying a police report, according to Missouri Department of Public Safety Records." In addition to Watson's lawsuit, Boyd "is being sued by a woman in Ferguson who said he arrested her after she asked for his name at the scene of a traffic accident."

    Okay but he's definitely been fired and barred from ever serving as a cop again, right?

  • Mitsima||

    Fired? That was an academy graduation qualification, apparently.

  • AlmightyJB||

    You meant to say that he's been promoted right?

  • SIV||

    Racist much, Hugh? Boyd's tint just a little too dark for you?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Follow the link. It's quite a story.

  • Exocetmd||

    Doctors who face discipline by hospitals or state boards, or are sued by patients, are automatically reported to the National Practitioners Data Bank. This remains a black mark against them for all to see for the remainder of their careers. Surely, all the same arguments that applied to instituting the NPDB for doctors are equally valid for cops? Of course, doctors are forbidden by the federal government from unionizing. Might that explain the difference?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    They're forbidden from unionizing?

  • Mitsima||

    On the bright-side, if doctors unionized they could beat the crap out of you, then treat you right away. I say, 'bright-side', because whereas most would see a conflict of interests, I tend to look at the positive convenience of it all.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    More likely if you went to your GP for a sinus problem, the ENT local would send some goons over to speak with you.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Wait until the government runs health care. The cops and doctors will come from the same pool and people not employable in the private sector.

  • Longtobefree||

    What makes you think doctors are not unionized?

  • Mitsima||

    Fired? That was an academy graduation qualification, apparently.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    False Arrest in False Arrest Out. Law of the streets.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    By dropping the charges now, Ferguson Prosecuting Attorney Lee Clayton Goodman lends credibility to Watson's case against Boyd and the city, which accuses them of violating his rights under the Fourth, First, and 14th amendments. The New York Times says Goodman "declined to discuss the matter."

    I wish I could do that after committing a massive wrong doing. "Nah, don't really feel like it right now."

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Hopefully the newfound city of Watson, MO will hire fewer shitty cops.

  • Sports Reporter Charles Manson||

    The cop was black? The victim had a job? Not interested.

    /BLM

  • Brother Kyfho||

    I never cease to be astounded at cases like these when Rule 308 is NOT applied.

  • AlmightyJB||

    What's rule 308?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Revenge with a .308?

  • croaker||

    Or any other Trepanizine delivery agent.

  • Wasteland Wanderer||

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    If that wasn't what it meant before, it is what it means now.

  • Griffin3||

  • Juice||

    Why do mere charges result in losing clearance? And sorry that you can't get more government work. Oh well. Maybe try something else.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    The clearance process can be a beast, especially for top secret clearances. Many things can trigger a review, including being arrested. Non-criminal issues, such as financial problems or unexplained wealth, or seeing a therapist (they do ask this on clearance forms) can also trigger a review.

    Bottom line - clearances are not an entitlement, and can be revoked based on someone's opinion of your trustworthiness. It's a borderline witch hunt in some cases.

  • Juice||

    I know they get all up in your shit, which is why I shied away from it when I started moving that direction. First, I didn't want to work for the federal government, even if it meant killer pay, etc. I might have sucked it up and done it, but, really I did not like what I was hearing from others about the process of acquiring clearance. And I'm sure I would not have gotten it anyway. I'm just not the type.

  • Longtobefree||

    There is some rationale to most of the process. Financial problems leave you open to bribery. Unexplained wealth means criminal activity (or mostly stupidity); if it is legal you can explain it and all is well. Mostly the initial investigation is to see if there are things in your background that can be used to coerce you into spying. I was asking the interviewer about some of the stuff, like drug use, and he said they didn't so much care about the use, but if you lied about it, you were open to blackmail. So - - -
    It is pretty invasive (went back 15 years when I got mine), but having one does let you serve the country in some very interesting ways. I had to agree not to go to a list of 15 countries, most of which no longer exist. But I wasn't going to any of them anyway.

  • Qsl||

    There is some rationale to most of the process.... Mostly the initial investigation is to see if there are things in your background that can be used to coerce you into spying

    Kinda. Sorta. Not really.

    Gent I know (who was the epitome of white bread squeaky-clean) described the harrowing process to reaffirm his security clearance. The investigator would harangue him for hours, looking for something to hanging him on.

    After a few years of this he got wise and started embellishing to the investigator over some minor falling, like drinking too much (he never drank).

    His clearance interviews took no more than 40 minutes afterwards.

    Truth of the matter the interview is to coerce you. If something like drug use didn't matter then there would be no reason to ask about it. It would be like asking if you masturbated to obese midget clown porn. Now that's something to blackmail someone over.

    The investigator has already done the research to determine if you are a security risk. The interview is little more than a game of father confessor. Admit your sin or your career is over.

    Exactly who is blackmailing whom?

  • Don't look at me.||

    Guilty until proven innocent.

  • Juice||

    So...woodchipper?

  • Trigger Warning||

    Scaphism.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    No. you'd never get the slime off the blades.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Operator Manual updated.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Last year the Times noted that as a St. Louis police officer, Boyd "pistol-whipped a 12-year-old girl in the face in 2006, and in 2007 struck a child in the face with his gun or handcuffs before falsifying a police report, according to Missouri Department of Public Safety Records." In addition to Watson's lawsuit, Boyd "is being sued by a woman in Ferguson who said he arrested her after she asked for his name at the scene of a traffic accident."

    I wanna join that union.

  • Trigger Warning||

    Fraternal Order of Douchebags?

  • AlmightyJB||

    But then you would have to work with people like this. Not worth it.

  • Trigger Warning||

    I hope you get yours, Boyd.

  • ||

    Lord what an asshole Boyd is. Hope he loses his jobs and rots.

    Goodman is no better.

    Jerk offs.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    By lose his job, you mean get promoted and receive special training pay?

  • ||

    Heck, add a community award to that!

    Officer takes down cat from tree!

    /small print: By shooting it.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Only after he's punished with a 6 month paid suspension.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    And a grievance upheld in arbitration for missed overtime.

  • Sevo||

    "a federal awsuit"

    How about "awfulsuit'?

  • AlmightyJB||

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Boyd needs to be fired. Preferably from a cannon.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    "Boyd 'pistol-whipped a 12-year-old girl in the face in 2006'"

    Doncha just hate it when you're reading an article and realize it oughta have been a whole 'nother article instead?

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Sometimes, when I read about wild abuses of power like this one, I literally get a bit dizzy. Such bald-faced abuse of power stuns me. DOJ knows about this and they aren't up their collective ass sideways? Why not? Have the defense attorneys filed complaints with the MO Bar on the persecutors? Why not?

    Nobody wants to rock the boat too much. Temples might fall.

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    wrong tint

  • Longtobefree||

    What was that thing about justice delayed - - - -?

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