Thursday, August 21, 2014

Protip: Don't Screw With Old Folks

A squad of 18 deputies in Cook County were very aggressive in trying to collect money from deadbeat dads, using whatever methods they needed to bring these culprits to justice.  When they put a gun to 77-year-old Merien Macon's head, however, they messed with the wrong person. From the Chicago Tribune:

When the unit arrived at the Macons' home, two weeks before Merien's arrest, officers had two outstanding warrants for couple's son, Derrick Macon, then 50, including one for child support. Officers insisted they be allowed into the home, William Macon said.

Because the officers did not have a search warrant, William Macon refused, he said.

William Macon, 83 years old, wasn't to be easily pushed. You gotta love tough old birds. And before anyone gets all bent out of shape about his "derelict" deadbeat son, it turns out that while the team knew all about the outstanding warrants for child support, they somehow missed the order holding that he wasn't the father of the child. But let's not have facts impair a good story.

When the deputies saw Merien drive up to the back of the home, they approached with guns drawn — one pointed at her head as she sat in the car — and pressed her about her son's whereabouts, according to the lawsuit.

"I was really surprised when they walked up with their guns," Merien Macon, a retired clerical worker, said last week. "I was scared. I was shocked. I was surprised."

Macon, who had dropped off her son earlier, told them she didn't know where he was and she did not want to answer questions, [Macon's lawyer, Elizabeth] Kaveny said.

And so the deputies, duly chastised by their overly violent conduct frightening a nice old woman, apologized profusely and left her in peace outraged by her refusal to do as they commanded, decided to teach an old woman a lesson.

At that point, Merien Macon became upset and told the officers she would not speak to them. The officers handcuffed, frisked and arrested Merien Macon on a charge of obstruction of justice.

The officers then took her to a nearby parking lot, where they gave her a phone and told her to call her son and find out where he was.

Merien's husband, William, a retired electrician, called that "a hostage situation," attempting to trade off his wife for his son. The sheriff's office claimed that was not at all the case, and they were just being thoughtful.

The sheriff's office denied attempting to pressure Macon to call her son and said she was moved to the parking lot because her husband had become upset and neighbors were starting to gather.

They didn't want to upset old William by forcing him to watch her cuffed, frisked and with guns pointed at his wife's head. A very sensitive gesture in law enforcement, likely to win a medal at some point.

The Macons sued for what was done to Merien.

Merien Macon was charged with felony obstruction of justice, leading her to file a lawsuit against Sheriff Tom Dart and the officers involved. A Cook County jury recently sided with her, awarding Macon $327,500 and agreeing with her husband that what happened that afternoon went too far.

Frankly, that's a very healthy award, give that most plaintiffs in her situation could hope for a fraction of that at best. But then, picture a jury hearing the testimony in this case, looking at the 77-year-old woman and her loving 83-year-old husband, and pondering the cuffs on her wrists, the hands on her body, the gun at her head, all over a mistaken child support warrant. It doesn't get more sympathetic than this.

"I've seen this type of thing over and over and over," William Macon said. "But when it happens to you it becomes more personal."

Truth. Unless you happen to be knowledgeable about your rights, have the guts to assert them with a gun pointed at your head and, purely by happenstance, a couple of cool codgers, chances aren't good you would end up with a verdict of this magnitude. This makes it an exceptionally good reason to both applaud the Macons, and to care a whole lot about when things like this happen "over and over and over." Because next time it could be you, and it will, without question, become "more personal."

H/T Spencer Neal

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