Lies and Videotape

In an apparent repeat of its behavior in the Norberg case, the sheriff's office withheld key evidence from litigant

Unclear why O'Connor wanted him out, Post elected to wait for police to arrive. O'Connor himself wasn't clear why he wanted Post to leave when he talked to New Times a year later: "He just seemed like the kind of person who has four or five drinks and then becomes belligerent," O'Connor said for a 1997 story on Post. O'Connor also said that Post didn't seem drunk, contradicting the police, who wrote that Post was "extremely intoxicated." Post says that he had been drinking, but denies that he was drunk or belligerent.

The officers told Post to leave the bar or they would arrest him. Post explains that he refused to drive his specially equipped car because he thought the officers would follow him and arrest him for DUI. Post offered to roll home in his wheelchair, but the officers refused. Post thinks they didn't understand that the three or four miles to his home would have been no problem for the wheelchair athlete. Instead, they told him to take a cab or accept a ride from a bar patron. But Post felt vulnerable in taxis and the cars of people he didn't know, since he would have to be lifted in and out by the driver, and he refused. Howell and Ray told him they had no alternative but to arrest him. Then, searching Post's backpack, the officers found 1.1 grams of marijuana and a pipe. (Eventually, he would serve six months probation and pay a $750 fine after being convicted of criminal trespass as well as possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia.)

At Madison Street Jail, Post was searched and booked. In subsequent reports, jailers wrote that Post was argumentative and uncooperative. But in the first videotapes released by the sheriff's office, the opposite seems to be the case: Post can be seen calmly assenting to instructions as he's searched.

Post says he hadn't planned to be out late, and he didn't have an internal catheter with him, a piece of equipment he needs to urinate. He asked for one, and was told that a nurse would talk to him.

In court documents, nurse Beverly Hunter claims that Post was rude to her when she asked him if he had any special needs. "I'm in a fucking wheelchair, you bitch," she says Post replied.

Post says, "I didn't curse at the nurse at all. I just told her I needed a catheter and she didn't say a word to me."

Denied the equipment and placed in an isolation cell, Post begged detention officers to give him the catheter so he could relieve the pressure in his bladder. (Medical literature warns that the single greatest killer of paraplegics is kidney disease brought on by unsanitary and infrequent urinations.) When detention officers ignored him, Post began to hit the door of his cell with his fist to get their attention. In the first videotape released by the sheriff's office, Post can be seen in his isolation cell repeatedly rolling to the door to hit it, then rolling back and sitting, waiting.

Angry that he was being ignored, Post caused the toilet in his cell to overflow. Guards turned off the water in Post's cell and had trusties begin cleaning up the standing water. Then, Sergeant Rocky Medina decided that Post, a man paralyzed from the waist down, should be strapped down in a medieval-looking restraint chair.

In court documents, the sheriff's office argues that Medina had no choice: If Post wasn't strapped to the device, he would go on hitting the door's window until he broke it. Post says that assertion is ridiculous. The windows are made out of Lexan, he points out. Even a standing person would have difficulty breaking the glass, and Post was sitting in a wheelchair. Post says it's obvious that Medina simply wanted to punish him for overflowing his toilet.

There's much evidence to suggest that by the early months of 1996, the restraint chair had become a standard device for punishing inmates in Arpaio's jail.

Post's incarceration occurred just as the Department of Justice was completing a two-year investigation of the jails. On March 25--a week after Post's incarceration--Justice officials notified the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors that its investigation had found a pattern of unconstitutional treatment of inmates in the jails. The investigation particularly condemned the way Arpaio's jailers used the restraint chair. Only three months after this letter was sent warning the county of problems in the jails (and another month before the letter was made public), Scott Norberg would die as a dozen detention officers crammed him into one of the chairs after they had already handcuffed him and pinned him to the floor.

Post says he has evidence of another instance where the chair was clearly used as punishment rather than for controlling a combative inmate. He showed New Times the surveillance video of unruly inmate David Hoyle, who in 1995 was tackled by several detention officers, then placed in the same isolation cell where Post would land a year later. For a half-hour, Hoyle alternately paces the floor and sits on a bench in the cell. Then guards bring the restraint chair and strap him in--for no other visible reason than to punish him for being unruly a half-hour earlier.

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