Civil Rights Lawsuit Handled by Piccuta Law Group is In the News Again
On June 24, 2016, the Fresno Bee newspaper ran another article on a high profile Civil Rights case handled by the Piccuta Law Group. The case is entitled George Michael Macias, Jr. v. City of Clovis, Et Al. and is before the Honorable Barbara A. McAuliffe in the United States District Court in Fresno, California. The case involves the wrongful beating and tasering of the firm’s client, George Michael Macias, Jr. while handcuffed and already in custody. The beating was administered by four City of Clovis police officers after a routine traffic stop.
In September 2012, Macias was pulled over by former Officer Steve Cleaver while riding his motorcycle because his motorcycle plate light was allegedly not bright enough. Macias was cited for operating the motorcycle without a proper license. He was not cited for the light that was allegedly not bright enough. Former Officer Cleaver then ordered that his bike be impounded and released him with a traffic citation for operating it without the proper license. Before doing so, he allowed Macias to take his keys and helmet.
After Macias was released, the officers realized that they had given Macias the key that operated the handlebars to the motorcycle. Although they did not need the key to tow the motorcycle and were not tasked with loading the motorcycle on to the tow truck, they decided that they wanted the key anyway. They made a second contact with Macias approximately one mile from where he was released and as he was walking down the street. Once there, they demanded the key. Macias refused to give it to them. This aggravated former Officer Cleaver who then drew his taser, threatened to use it and arrested Macias for allegedly resisting arrest.
Former Officer Cleaver then threw Macias in the back of his police cruiser without positioning him properly or applying his seatbelt. In an effort to reposition himself and become comfortable, Macias moved his handcuffs to the front of his body and placed his hands in his lap. Macias did nothing aggressive, threatening or violent in the back of the police cruiser. Upon learning that Macias had placed his handcuffs in front of him, and although he could have continued to the station to book Macias, former Officer Cleaver decided instead to call for other officers and stopped on the side of the road awaiting their arrival.
After a total of four officers were on the scene, they formed a semi-circle outside the police cruiser and ordered Macias to exit. Upon exiting, they immediately attacked Macias beating him to the ground and tasering him in the process. Macias was handcuffed during the beating and never struck an officer. An ambulance was called to the scene to treat Macias for his injuries and then transported Macias to Community Regional Medical Center hospital.
Former officer Cleaver later authored a police report with a fabricated version of events. In the police report, he claimed that Macias initiated the confrontation and was non-compliant with orders. The officers, when questioned later, gave different stories as to what happened when Macias exited the police cruiser.
Macias was charged with resisting arrest and fought that charge in the criminal court. After hearing the testimony of the officers, the testimony of Macias and considering other evidence, a jury found Macias not guilty of resisting arrest. The crime was punishable up to one year in jail if he had been convicted. During the criminal trial the presiding judge found that Macias had no duty to give the officers the motorcycle keys back upon their second contact with him.
Macias contacted the Piccuta Law Group who then filed a lawsuit on his behalf against all the officers involved and the City of Clovis Police Department. The lawsuit asserts claims for: violations of civil rights including wrongful arrest, illegal search and seizure, excessive force/police brutality, battery, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and wrongful criminal prosecution.
The article published by the Fresno Bee on June 24, 2016 is the second article reporting on a specific issue in the civil case handled by the Piccuta Law Group. In the civil suit the Piccuta Law Group has asked the court to unseal confidential police records regarding two Internal Affairs Investigations involving one of the officers. Wanting to keep the information concealed from the public, the City has aggressively opposed and forcefully objected to the request. The Piccuta Law Group argued that the information is material to a filing in the civil suit and as a result compelling reasons must exist to overcome the presumption that the court documents are public records.
The Court heard the arguments on June 24, 2016. Attorneys for the City made two requests to have the courtroom sealed to the public, presumably so the hearing could not be reported on by the Fresno Bee. Both requests were denied. Charles Tony Piccuta argued on behalf of making the Internal Affairs Investigations public and Judge McAuliffe indicated that she agreed with the position of the Piccuta Law Group. The Judge further stated that she believed the Internal Affairs Investigations are public records once attached to important judicial filings and that no genuinely compelling reason existed to overcome the presumption that the public should have access to them. The parties are awaiting the official court order.
If you, a friend or a loved one has had your civil rights violated or were the victim of police misconduct, contact the Piccuta Law Group today. One of our attorneys is available to provide you with a free consultation.
Click below to read the entire story published by the Fresno Bee on June 24, 2016.