Cleveland Officers’ Silence Frustrates Prosecutor in Police Trial Over Shooting of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams

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Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell

 

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty says he’s run into a blue wall of silence. 

Before Officer Michael Brelo’s trial began, 16 Cleveland police officers declined to meet with prosecutors to review their testimony about the officer’s shooting of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.

Once the case reached a courtroom, seven officers exercised their Fifth Amendment rights and refused to testify about Brelo, who prosecutors maintain leaped onto the hood of Russell’s car after a lengthy pursuit and fired 15 rounds from his pistol.

The officers’ lack of cooperation led McGinty to ask the court to treat them as hostile witnesses. In court documents, he likened their silence to the actions of an “organized crime syndicate.”

McGinty declined to comment on the pending case, but in court documents his office has lambasted the officers and the police union.

“This unprecedented failure to cooperate with investigators then and now is relevant and direct evidence that some of these Cleveland police officers subpoenaed to testify refuse to do their duty and are adverse the best interests of the city,” prosecutors wrote.

Police union President Stephen Loomis, commenting that prosecutor has “lost his mind,” said he believes McGinty is trying to win a conviction by capitalizing on nationwide scrutiny of police that has grown after the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner in New York and Tamir Rice in Cleveland.

“It’s smoke and mirrors, it’s disappointing, and it’s the act of a desperate man who doesn’t have any facts,” Loomis said.

“We’ve done nothing to obstruct — we’ve done everything to cooperate.”

The pull-apart brawl between Cleveland’s police and elected prosecutor marks one of the harshest face-offs between police officers and the prosecutors responsible for investigating police wrongdoing.

While the conflict has grown during a year in which police officers are under increasing scrutiny over their use of force, the Brelo case marks one of the first times the sparring has spilled into a courtroom.

It’s a sharp turnaround from the once-chummy relationship between prosecutor and union president.

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Source: Los Angeles Times | James Queally

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