Creative Destruction

April 27, 2006

Nothing Has Changed Since The Rodney King Verdict

Filed under: Race and Racism — Ampersand @ 2:30 pm

I’m late with this, but the three Wisconsin police officers accused of attacking Frank Jude Jr. and Lovell Harris were found not guilty on April 14. The three were accused of being among a dozen off-duty cops, all white, who dragged Jude (who is biracial) and Harris out of a truck. Harris successfully fled after being cut with a knife, but Jude was pulled to the ground and beaten to a pulp.

I’ve never heard of the Jude case before today. Am I ridiculously out of it, or has the media severely underreported this story?

Frank Jude, Jr., after being beaten by off-duty police.

Here are some details. For a much fuller account, read the newspaper story reprinted at Thefreeslave.

Jude, a part-time stripper, attended the party at the invitation of two women who saw him perform at a different party earlier that night. The women testified that Jude was dragged out of the truck and beaten. But other off-duty cops at the party claimed that Jude began the fight after being accused of stealing a badge, and that the force used against him were reasonable.

The police report indicates that Jude fought the off-duty officers and later the uniformed officers, refusing to put his hands behind his back. Antonissen and Brown said that’s not true.

“They had his arms behind his back the whole time,” Brown said. “There was nothing he could do.”

None of the cops defending themselves against Jude were injured at all. Jude, however, “suffered a concussion, a broken nose and fractured sinus cavity, cuts in both ears, cuts and swelling to his left eye, neck, head, face, legs and back, and a severely sprained left hand, his attorney said. His left eye was swollen shut and continued to bleed for 10 days… Jude said he will need surgery to breathe through his nose again, may have permanent disability in one hand and suffers diminished vision.” Also, Jude was left naked from the waist down by the cops.

From the transcript of the 911 call:

At one point on the tape of the 911 call, Antonissen tells the operator one of the officers is trying to get her off the phone.

“He’s stealing the phone from me,” Antonissen says. “They’re twisting my arm.”

A man says, “Hang up the phone.”

“Hello?” the operator says.

Then the line goes dead.

* * *

So how did they get a jury to let them off?

Well, it sure as hell helped that they were white, and cops, and that their victim was neither. And the defense lawyers managed to purge the jury pool of all black members (the last two taken off were accused of not being attentive enough).

It also helped that most white cops, when it comes to racist criminals in their won ranks, are happy to cover up crime. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

[Prosecutor] McCann hammered on a “police code of silence” during the 13-day trial, noting that a half-dozen non-police witnesses saw kicking and beating, while none of the eight police witnesses for the defense said they saw that.

On the state’s side was the graphic post-beating photo of Jude blown up to poster size, and two key witnesses: the first on-duty officers on the scene. Those officers identified the three defendants. They also told of retaliation because of their cooperation in the case. One has taken a stress-related retirement.

The defense railed against those officers and accused one of them, Joseph Schabel, of being the one who kicked Jude, an accusation that didn’t surface until the trial. They pointed to a 911 tape in which a witness said on-duty officers were kicking Jude, too.

Interestingly, the three defendants had three different lawyers who chose to tell three different stories.

Each defense attorney argued a different case: Bartlett was trying to make a legal arrest and Jude was fighting; Spengler restrained Jude but was blamed for beating him because it was his party; and Masarik was inside the house looking for his police logbook when the beating occurred and was confused with someone else.

The three defendants were charged in each count as being “a party to the crime,” an important distinction. It doesn’t require proof that the person committed the crime. The person also can be convicted if he or she is “aiding and abetting” the person who did it or was a member of a conspiracy to commit the crime.

Under that definition, even if it was proven that a defendant stood around Jude and was “ready and willing to assist,” but didn’t do anything, he could be convicted, according to the jury instruction.

Of the three defenses, only one of them – the cop who claimed that he wasn’t in the area and didn’t know the beating was going on – strikes me as even marginally plausible. The other two officers essentially claimed that nothing untoward happened and that reasonable force was used. Given the huge extent of injuries suffered by Frank Jude, the eyewitness reports, and the 911 call, the idea that the cops did nothing wrong here isn’t credible.

* * *

I’ve seen a couple of right-wingers point out that Jude himself is apparently a woman-beating asshole. But that in no way excuses this verdict, nor does it mitigate the obvious racism and brutality of the cops who beat Jude.

There’s a lot in common between what happened to Jude and when the Klan burns a cross on a black family’s lawn. This is a horrible crime against individuals, but it’s also a hate crime against the entire black community. The effect of a crime like this – and the subsequent not guilty verdict – is to remind all blacks that a substantial number of whites consider blacks to be a good deal less than human.

Frank Jude said: “If I committed this crime, I would be in jail. They should not be on the street. I am scared. I don’t need that, and my kids don’t need that.”

How big is the white privilege that comes with not having to fear that cops will beat me within an inch of my life for no reason? How big is the white privilege of never having the cops send my community a message of hate like that? Frankly, I don’t have a measuring stick big enough.

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18 Comments »

  1. Nothing has changed is a pretty expansive statement.

    The Rodney King incident was appalling, as is the Frank Jude incident. Acquittals in both cases are hard to fathom. I’m in agreement with you there, I think.

    That nothing has changed is a harder statement to make stick. Neither of these incidents are isolated; rather, they’re both part of lingering racism, police brutality and corruption, and the abject failure of the judicial system to provide justice. However, is it possible that the ubiquity of home video and public surveilance cameras has forestalled a repeat of these events more frequently that these two notable events?

    Comment by Brutus — April 28, 2006 @ 12:01 am | Reply

  2. damn the cops in Milwaukee suck and are rascist you can fight right i front of them they just don’t care they garbage.
    And people wonder why we dont like cops they are pathetic. They think they are so hard cause they got that badge.
    Cops dont even make people comfortable anymore. Now you see a cop and your like damn what do we got to hear now.

    Comment by Damn — July 27, 2007 @ 1:14 am | Reply

  3. Right, because Rodney King is such an upstanding member of society- ohh, let’s see

    1999 – charged with spousal abuse and 3 counts of pcp use AND indecent exposure

    2003 – speeding, while under the influence of PCP, and failing to yield to police officers

    Yeah, let’s all feel sorry for Rodney, because he doesnt have to play by the rules. It’s too bad he got beat up, but you know what, he wouldn’t have had that problem if he wasnt speeding and doing pcp. And it certainly wasnt an excuse for the abhorrent behavior displayed in the LA riots – you friggin hippies need to just grow up and start dealing with reality just like everyone else.

    Comment by roy — August 6, 2007 @ 10:06 pm | Reply

    • WOW… You people truly amaze me…. I lived in Long Beach CA. during the riots and let me tell you the ideas you have are unthinkable. First of all King was going 55 in a 40mph zone and the “chase” lasted 4-5 blocks. King had 2 passangers with him to witness the attack by the LAPD as well as several witness’s from the apartment complex across the street. King did as he was told, by getting out of the car and placing his hands on the roof, than getting on the ground, It was than he was surrouded by the LAPD aand the massive beating began. You want reality than maybe you should be surrounded by a bunch of cops and beatin with night sticks and tazered a few times lets see how you react. As you stated in your blog roy his priors were in 99 and 03′ so now are you gonna tell us all that the LAPD was right in their actions because they could some how see the future and know how he was going to behave? Reality check in 1991 LAPD had only 14% of their officers that were black, the rest were white, Powell had been investigated prior to the rodney king incident for unusual force. And you say we need a reality check? Racism is still a high priorty rather you see it as such or not.

      Comment by Jamie — July 19, 2009 @ 2:35 pm | Reply

  4. Damn: you must be a police officer or work for the police department to make such an ignorant comment like that. You also must have the IQ of a four year old.
    so what you’re saying is that because he does drugs and drives fast he should be beaten to almost death?

    let me guess… you’re white? and you’re racist. It’s obvious. One day something like this will happen to you or someone you know and then you will understand.

    Comment by Justice — September 18, 2007 @ 10:40 pm | Reply

  5. You know what, if it wasn’t for the police you would all look like that. People need to be thankful that the police are here. unless you’re a police officer, you just don’t understand what’s it likes to have an extremely dangerous job. Every person you pull over could have a gun and want to kill you. Why don’t you write about all the police officers that are shot and killed just for pulling someone over for speeding? Why report on criminals when you can report on the heroes?

    Comment by Taylor O. — November 25, 2007 @ 12:12 pm | Reply

  6. “Why don’t you write about all the police officers that are shot and killed just for pulling someone over for speeding?”

    Everyone already reports that information.

    “People need to be thankful that the police are here. unless you’re a police officer, you just don’t understand what’s it likes to have an extremely dangerous job.”

    Because of the authority with which police are invested, they absolutely must be held to a higher standard than civilian folk; they know before becoming officers how dangerous the job is, and – moreover – their valor in taking up that task does not give them license to beat citizens senseless. It is not only abhorrent, it is illegal: and, yet, these badge-wearing criminals walk free, possibly still walking a beat for the Wisconsin police force.

    Comment by Jonathan — April 28, 2008 @ 7:12 pm | Reply

  7. Can anyone tell me why there is color of skin quotas for school, job placement, and military? The list goes on; who is racist the person who states that it is hard to grow up as a black man. The color of a person skin doesn’t change who they are, it is a person actions that make them good or bad. OJ got away with murder, as for the comment about the news never reporting about officers who are hurt in the line of duty, or reporting all of those who are killed serving our country, all you will ever hear from the media is information that causes controversy. It is funny, how many programs are out there to assist people with certain backgrounds. A person who is white only by the color of his or her skin is not allowed these benefits. Where is a so called white history month if we are going to make things fair, a pure white race in the U.S. is pretty close to none existent, for the simple fact as this country is founded by immigrants. We have been mixing ethnic backgrounds for years, so a Spaniard who is of white nature makes him a white man? How about a man running for president who is so called half white and half black, made a comment that he went to Africa to find his roots, what about his so called white roots, since the color of his skin is black that makes him a black man? I am not saying that people dont make comments to every ethnic background; people just need to stop thinking that this is Disneyland and only white people with so called white skin are the only racist ones.

    It will always be a no win situation for those who serve this country and police officers, people only come to you when they need help, but when you need help they will hang you out to dry.

    Lets list the Rampart scandal of Officers who were in a gang; they caused one of the biggest scandals in LAPD history. Is it the black man or is it the person actions that show who they are? One of the Officers was from Puerto Rico, wasnt even African American only had the physical features, skin color and hair.

    The man, who said the person is ignorant, is a complete moron, you have not seen the worse of the worse of people, and it is always the rich who run their mouths without any sense of direction or restraint or someone with no education at all.

    Comment by Dave — July 26, 2008 @ 6:08 am | Reply

  8. Obey the law, pull over, follow all commands from police officers, be lawful, keep vehicle registration current, as well as insurance, have a license to drive. Don’t drive drunk. It’s easy. Do the right things in life, don’t be a loser, and you won’t get beat. Black or white. Doesn’t matter. FOLLOW THE LAWS OF THE STATE YOU ARE IN!!!

    Comment by Jackson — February 21, 2009 @ 5:09 am | Reply

  9. It is clear that Jude was beaten to an extreme. I find what these officers did to be appalling! I understand that Jude may have been breaking the law and needed to be arrested, however, using this kind of force is completely absurd.

    However, I do find it completely offensive as a white person when it says that this verdict proves that “a substantial number of whites consider blacks to be a good deal less than human.” It hardly proves that…at the very most it proves 12 idiots made a bad decision.

    Comment by TS — February 25, 2009 @ 3:13 am | Reply

  10. This is what the government thinks of us. Citizens and government can never be one in the same, different food chains. I can’t believe people are surprised. Obama lets congress steal from our grandchildren to scratch backs that scratched his, and cops and teachers lie and abuse their power. NEWSFLASH!

    Comment by GIdeon — March 15, 2009 @ 5:20 pm | Reply

  11. To me, the evidence here is clear that this poor man was beaten and it is horrible that the officers didn’t face any justice.

    The points were interesting that someone made here that both Jude and Rodney King were not the greatest people on Earth. That being said … they didn’t deserve anything close to what they got. All I get from that is don’t be so quick to assume the worst of the cops. While it is my belief that in both situations they used excessive force and it probably was race related, you cannot assume that Jude and King had absolutely nothing to do with it. In the King case, there was an extra 13 seconds of video footage shown to the jurors which was not released to the public. In those 13 seconds, King was seen coming at the officers. While I personally believe in both situations that the officers were WAY out of line and should face serious jail time, you can’t be so quick to condemn the officers and blame it on them because they are white.

    Also, don’t assume all whites are racist. It is simply not true. Yeah some are, but blacks are too and so are Jews, Chinese, or whatever else you can come up with. And the argument that blacks cannot be racist (Spike Lee) is ridiculous and shouldn’t even be brought up.

    What I’m trying to say is that don’t project the racism onto the race or the profession. These men clearly were out of line and assholes but don’t project that racism onto whites or cops. I am not a cop, but there are great cops out there just like there are nice teachers and crooked teachers.

    Comment by Kirby — April 7, 2009 @ 11:56 pm | Reply

  12. Also, I agree that the comment made by the author saying that a substantial amount of whites consider blacks to be less than human is ridiculous. I’m sure some white people think that. Again, don’t become racist when you are condemning racism. I am white and absolutely don’t think that. Race is a ridiculous concept in itself … as it is just colour and we all come from Africa or the Middle East anyways.

    These cops were the ones who were racist and assholes … just the like four cops in the Rodney King case. Don’t proejct that racism onto the entire race when that is what started this pain and suffering.

    Comment by Kirby — April 8, 2009 @ 12:00 am | Reply

  13. I have become so numb to racism. Its power to completely destroy the will of black people is overwhelming. There can never be justification to these hideous acts. unless deep down inside you feel black people are on this earth solely for the violent amusement of blood thirsty whites. I am beginning to feel that is the case. The majority of white women when asked were supportive of the police actions in the King case. We are just running on a treadmill and eating bon bons at the same time.

    Comment by vic — February 26, 2011 @ 10:36 pm | Reply

  14. Wow. I know this story is old, but I just have to say that most of these comments are moronic. A couple of them seem to think the word substantial is interchangeable with the word most. Yes, there is a substantial number of white people who believe black people are less than human. Even if only 1% of white people believe that (which I’m sure its at least 1%) that’s substantial. 1% of millions people is substantial. And the people trying to justify the cops actions with stuff like “well they were on drugs” and “if they didn’t commit crimes they wouldn’t get beat” are you serious? If any of the cops had injuries even half as bad as Jude and King, then it might be justifiable, but only if that’s what it took to restrain them. Seeing how none of the police had been injured, that tells me their force wasn’t warranted. These cops should have been convicted and served time. And to the writer, in the last paragraph, white privilege of not having to fear getting beat by police? That was the dumbest thing I think I read on this whole page. So white people don’t have to worry about police brutality? Ha. I’m white and I was tazed and had my nose and two ribs broken by about a half dozen white cops (two of which I know are racist because they lived in my neighborhood and went to the same school as me so I saw it fist hand) for nothing more than being a smart ass and calling the one who pulled me over a douche bag. He didn’t like that so he called for backup and I was dragged from my car when 3 more police cars showed up. They didn’t arrest me and they left me lying on the side of the road. I had to walk to find a phone to call an ambulance because they broke my phone and took my keys. Then when I tried filing a police report against the cops who beat me I was refused (by another white cop). So I contacted a lawyer and filed a lawsuit against the city and a white judge threw the case out because he believed the police simply because they were police, and their dash cam footage mysteriously disappeared. That was 5 years ago and I’m still fighting to at least get my medical bills paid for which added up to about $6,000. That’s some privilege huh? My point is, white or not, the system is corrupt, and will fuck you unless you know the right people. Police abuse their power all the time. I doubt all of those cops in the Jude and King cases were racist. A few no doubt. But from what I’ve witnessed my self, and with the recent brutality against the occupy wall street protestors, there are a substantial number of police who are just overly violent whether they’re racist or not. And again, even if its only 1%, that is substantial and 1% too high.

    Comment by Matthew — November 28, 2011 @ 11:14 am | Reply

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m on board with everything you have to say. Of course, no one is blogging here anymore except me, and I do so only very infrequently.

      The business about white male privilege is a perception, which can also be a distortion lens. Sure, it has some operative veracity, but that flies out the window as soon as one fails to show the proper respect and deference to the police, as you apparently did. “Proper” is itself open to question, since the police have become even more violent and overweening in the five years since the blog entry went up, but the lesson is obvious either way: don’t tangle with the police in any way if it can be avoided.

      Comment by Brutus — November 28, 2011 @ 2:44 pm | Reply

  15. Quasi-official street gangs can be found embedded in many major metropolitan police departments, often making their presence known to the public through episodes of severe off-duty violence. Such was the case with the near-fatal beating of Milwaukee resident Frank Jude, Jr. in October 2004.

    Jude, a male dancer hired to perform at a bachelorette party, was set upon by a thugscrum of off-duty officers who accused him of stealing a badge. Jude was thrown to the ground, beaten, kicked, and choked; a knife was put to this throat, and a pen was jammed into one of his ears.

    The near-fatal beating inflicted permanent brain damage. None of the relevant facts were in dispute, but a jury accepted the claim that the beating was an effort to “subdue” a resisting suspect with a criminal history (Jude wasn’t charged in connection with the incident).

    Former Milwaukee Police Officer Jon Bartlett, the ringleader of the gang beating, was eventually convicted – along with six others – on federal civil rights charges. An internal affairs investigation revealed that Barlett and other officers who assaulted Jude belonged to a tattooed street gang calling itself the “Punishers,” described by MPD Commander James A Galezewski as “a group of rogue officers” – there’s that sanitizing adjective again – “who I would characterize as brutal and abusive.”

    Comment by James Knight — June 17, 2012 @ 1:00 pm | Reply

  16. […] Nothing Has Changed Since The Rodney King Verdict […]

    Pingback by RIP RODNEY KING « … but I digress — June 17, 2012 @ 5:03 pm | Reply


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