Updated with comments by James Egan, an attorney representing Mr. Etherly.
Leo Etherly, the man who was pulled over by Seattle police in connection to a Central District hit-and-run last year, and was then allegedly strangled and punched by his arresting officers, has reached a deal with city attorney's office regarding charges of hit-and-run and driving with a suspended license.
Etherly accepted a dispositional continuance deal, meaning that if he has no new criminal violations in the next two years, pays restitution to the hit-and-run victim, completes 48 hours of community service, pledges to drive with a valid license and insurance, completes a drug and alcohol class, and pays a fine of $145, after two years the driving with a suspended license charge will be dismissed and the hit-and-run bicyclist will be reduced to a hit-and-run unattended (meaning, instead of being charged for hitting a person and fleeing the scene, he'll be charged with hitting a bicycle and fleeing the scene. The latter charge is a simple misdemeanor rather than a gross misdemeanor and won't result in the loss of his license).
If Etherly fails to comply with the city attorney's terms, he could face jail time and higher fines.
"Mr. Etherly's case resolution has no bearing on a serious and separate civil rights violation meted out by SPD Officer Faust for refusal to comply and identify himself," says attorney James Egan in response to the deal. Egan is representing Etherly in a claim against the city. "We certainly hope the SPD responds in kind by recognizing that choking detainees and then exacting revenge with facial blows are well below the standards any police should set for themselves."
Egan's full comments after the jump.
Mr. Etherly accepted responsibility for damage to a bicycle to a victim's satisfaction (there was only one, not "victims" as misstated by Kimberly Mills in her email). Mr. Etherly's case resolution has no bearing on a serious and separate civil rights violation meted out by SPD Officer Faust for refusal to comply and identify himself. While probable cause to charge Hit and Run was eventually found by the court months later, probable cause to arrest did not exist at the time Etherly was choked and then struck twice in the eye by Officer Faust. Even if by some angle probable cause for arrest did exist at that time, SPD's use of force continuum was thrown out the window. Etherly's single passive resistance (raising his arm) does not mandate a Level Two tactic of "hands-on-neck," as SPD calls it. Then, even if Etherly's subsequent spitting were intentional and not from his throat swelling, that does not warrant violent retaliation where three officers had every ability to turn him around quickly and put on the other handcuff.
We certainly hope the SPD responds in kind by recognizing that choking detainees and then exacting revenge with facial blows are well below the standards any police should set for themselves. That conduct hurts the community's trust in SPD. The DOJ has been trying to get SPD to understand this with limited success, thanks to poor, defensive SPD leadership that is more committed to hiding than addressing SPD's own transgressions.
We also hope the SPD accepts responsibility for the specific injury caused by the unnecessary and excessive force, and is prepared to pay for the long term medical consequences to Mr. Etherly resulting from that gross deviation from training.
ALSO: The lawsuit against SPD: We filed a "notice of claim" on March 11, which means the City has 60 days to settle this or a suit can be filed. I have heard nothing from them, but it is common not to hear any overtures on resolution from Seattle even when conduct like this is so obviously far afield from appropriate.
Incidentally, Officer Faust is subject also to internal investigation for the pounding. That OPA investigation was started on October 6 (day of incident) and is to be resolved 180 days later. That means resolution should be on April 4, or two weeks from today. I declined the "opportunity" to have Mr. Etherly be interviewed by OPA as they wanted to access his medical records and have him testify and "describe the incident from his perspective." His perspective was choking and then a fist to his face twice while two officers held him down. There is no "opportunity" to be gained in recounting that, which in reality is SPD's hoped-for preparation for the future lawsuit against them. As I told the OPA, they should be focused on the officer's conduct and not the person he badly injured.