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Angry Oregon Prisoner's Excessive Force Suit Dismissed Mid-Trial

A former Oregon prisoner who turned down a $60,000 excessive force settlement, fired his attorney and represented himself at trial was his own worst enemy. Fed up with his disruptive, disrespectful behavior, a federal judge dismissed his case mid-trial.

On April 9, 2009, Chadwick J. Yancey, 32, was confined in the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility (NORCOR) — or as Yancey sees it, a "$17 million torture chamber" — on a probation violation for medical marijuana possession.

After fighting with another prisoner, Yancey demanded to speak with the sergeant. Guards handcuffed him behind his back and ordered him to sit in a chair next to Sergeant Brandie Drake.

What happened next is depicted on the jail's surveillance video. Although there is no sound, a picture is worth a thousand words, maybe more.

Yancey is seen seated at a table with his hands cuffed behind his back when Guards Jason Matthews and Jesus Pulido suddenly grabbed him and swung him face-first into a wall, before dragging him out of the camera's view. Yancey claims that they then beat him, knocking out teeth and inflicting several other injuries.

While complaining to Drake about his treatment and conditions at NORCOR, Matthews verbally provoked Yancey, calling him a "punk" and other names, he says.

"I told him that I felt like he was a power tripper hiding behind a badge," admits Yancey. "It was then that he flew into a rage, coming over and grabbing me out of my chair."

On March 24, 2011, Yancey brought federal suit, alleging excessive force and inadequate medical care. He also claimed that NORCOR administrators failed to adequately train and supervise the guards and fostered or failed "to correct a general jail atmosphere of disrespect for inmates' rights and safety and an atmosphere of impunity for abuses of those rights."

Yancey says he rejected a $60,000 settlement offer because he wanted to prove the guards' misconduct at trial. That jury trial began January 24, 2013, in the courtroom of United States District Court Judge Michael Mosman.

During opening statements, Defense Counsel asserted that the force used against Yancey was not excessive because he was out of control. As proof, Defendants offered video footage of Yancey repeatedly cursing a judge during a hearing earlier that day. However, Yancey offered perhaps the most compelling evidence against himself.

Despite numerous warnings from Mosman, Yancey repeatedly interrupted Defense Counsel's opening statement. He also argued with the judge, accused court staff of lying and tried to introduce evidence of other NORCOR excessive force cases, in violation of Mosman's previous rulings.

Although Mosman viewed the case as "credible" and worthy of presenting to a jury, just hours into the trial the judge had seen enough and abruptly dismissed the case.

Yancey's behavior and repeated violations of court orders continued a "pattern of obstreperous conduct" that he had displayed since filing the action in 2011, Mosman found.

"It was certainly my hope, to which I devoted my best efforts, to see that this case was decided on the merits," said Mosman in a January 24, 2013 opinion explaining the dismissal. "Unfortunately, those best efforts were undermined by Mr. Yancey's own misconduct."

The dismissal disappointed Juror Michael Darfler, who admitted that he and other jurors were alarmed by the surveillance video. "He's a really little guy," said Darfler, noting the size disparity between Yancey and the guards. "He didn't deserve to get beat up."

Even so, the dismissal "was (Yancey's) fault for not shutting his mouth," said Darfler. "I wanted to go out there and say, 'Dude, be quiet and you'll probably be fine.’"
Yancey intends to appeal Mosman's decision, claiming that his interruptions were due to not understanding the court process and frustration over rulings that he felt unfairly limited him.

An unrepentant Yancey assailed the court as part of a corrupt system that won't let him seek justice for his injuries. He cursed court staff, wished them a slow death and vowed that he and his friends would make a citizen's arrest of the defendants if his appeal fails. "This isn't over," he said.

Source: The Oregonian

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