SLO deputies crimes slipping under the radar?
September 7, 2010
San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s deputies Darren Murphy, Matt Terrell, Jay Wells, Jason Nefores and detective Eric Twisselman.
Remember these names: They are sheriff’s personnel who — according to The Tribune’s opinionated columnist/unbiased news reporter Bob Cuddy — acted in 2008 in “clear violation of the Fourth Amendment” to the U.S. Constitution. And who “conspired to justify their illegal entry after they had illegally entered” — also Cuddy’s words. Before we go any further, anyone see a crime under color of authority here? Where’s the outrage?
Cuddy spent 67 inches of ink on a Labor Day Sunday morning finding fault with (a) the private, law-abiding citizen whose rights were trampled by these uniformed, badge-carrying, tax-paid fellows; (b) the Internet; and (c) me.
His column centered around a video report by Central Coast News Agency about the clearly unlawful antics of sheriff’s deputies as they responded to a ‘shots fired” call and then proceeded to “go ballistic” (Cuddy’s words again). They broke into the victim’s house, took his keys from him and opened a gun safe, confiscated more than a dozen registered firearms, and arrested him — all the while chatting on their own videotapes. It was all so clear, all so egregious, all so indisputable, that the response worldwide was fast and overwhelming — 2.6 million views to date in more than 100 countries worldwide. Comments from law enforcement veterans and just plain citizens poured in. CalGuns.net got involved, and tens of thousands of gun enthusiasts and others concerned about this kind of behavior chimed in.
And in San Luis Obispo County? Six weeks of silence. Shame on those who have a voice and refuse to use it.
My response to Cuddy’s nonsense? Bob, this isn’t about Matt Hart, the victim. It’s not about the reporter (and his 22-minute video) telling Hart’s story. It’s not even about that new-fangled Internet thing. It’s about… how did you term it? “Conspired?” “Illegally entered?” Provable criminal actions by sworn law enforcement?
This would be a topic of huge interest in a normal community. And it would be a front-page headline in a real daily newspaper.
So, too, would be Cuddy’s assertion that according to the sheriff’s Chief Deputy Rob Reid, deputies are now undergoing ‘added training” as a result of this incident. But both of these newsworthy items disappeared in a sea of ink in a column containing conclusions about just about everything, except the obvious: These are the identities of the guys who put on their uniform one morning and went out to break the law. Who conspired to cover their actions in the cloak of respectability. Who got their supervisors to go along with the charade. And who with a shrug of their shoulders decided to insult the law and those it is designed to protect.
So other than the empty claim of a little training change for deputies, what has been the outcome of this sad situation?
Nothing. Nada. The department’s rotund civilian spinmeister, Rob Bryn, refused to provide copies of the three tapes in question to Cuddy and New Times’ reporter, Robert A. McDonald. Instead, Bryn offered the “opportunity” for the reporters to see and hear portions of the tapes at sheriff’s headquarters.
Bryn told McDonald, “You’ll have to submit a freedom of information request for those. I’ll say no. Then here’s how it will go. You’ll sue. You’ll lose. End of story.” How’s that for public service?
Then Bryn trotted out Reid for a few minutes of face time with Cuddy, one of the few local reporters to whom department officials will talk. Cuddy later told me that Bryn and Reid “helped” interpret what he was hearing.
Bryn’s current methodology in defense of his fellow lawbreakers has been to launch a whispering campaign to disparage the victim and the video, a campaign aimed at key community luminaries and addressing everything except the real issue: the sheriff’s deputies broke the law and remain undisciplined.
Maybe I’m just getting old (Cuddy says I’m 67, same age as him) but it seems that in days past, if one local media got the shaft from some pompous public mouthpiece, it would create a gang-type reaction. Public information was eventually served. Freedom was advance.
I’m forced to conclude that no one really gives a damn anymore. Maybe folks believe there is no way to stem the decline of our Constitutionally-guaranteed liberties. Maybe.
But I hope not. All we really have to do is stand up and be counted when obvious crimes are committed by our own law enforcement, particularly when we know that we have our own eyes and ears as witnesses.
I was really hoping I wouldn’t ever have to write this particular column. Who wants to butt heads with the law? I thought other media would pick up the ball and run with it. Silly me.
Where is the champion to further this discussion? Where is the collective anger?
Dan Blackburn is editor of CentralCoastNewsAgency.com, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.