[Read my new VDARE report:
“Pray for Michael Slager, Who Spent Christmas in Solitary Confinement, an American Political Prisoner.”]
By Nicholas Stix
North Charleston Police Department Officer Michael Slager paid dues to the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, for the sole purpose of procuring his legal defense, in the event of a civil suit or criminal prosecution of him, for actions he took in the line of duty. But when Slager fatally shot Walter Scott in the line of duty on April 4, and was charged with murder, the SSPBA refused to defend him. Actually, it did provide an attorney, David Aylor, on April 4, but Aylor quit Slager on April 7. When Slager requested new counsel, the SSPBA refused. Slager is now suing the SSPBA for “Breach of Contract, Bad Faith, and Unfair Insurance Practices.”
The lawsuit was filed (pdf) by Slager’s civil attorneys, Ronald L. Richter, Jr., Scott M. Mongillo, and Eric S. Bland, of Bland Richter, LLP, on November 10. Some relevant passages follow.
80. “In selling its policy of insurance, Defendant Southern States PBA issued a wallet card to Officer Slager confirming that its policy of insurance would protect him in the event of ‘ANY DUTY RELATED SHOOTING’ and assuring that in such an event ‘AN ATTONREY [sic] WILL BE SENT TO YOU.’”
81. “Defendant Southern States PBA did not explain that the attorney would be sent to him for three days or that instead of providing a legal defense to charges stemming from an officer related shooting, Southern States PBA may unilaterally decide that the shooting was intentional and use such a determination as a basis to deny coverage.
82. “If Legal Defense Benefit plan, Policy No. 00-16 [Slager’s personal policy] does not provide legal defense coverage for the charges brought against Officer Slager following the Walter Scott shooting, then the contract is illusory and actually provides no coverage whatsoever.”
The disposition of the case may well turn on the interpretation of the SSPBA policy’s “Section 1. D. Limitations, Restrictions and Exemptions.”
f. “Southern States PBA reserves the right to withhold approval of any benefits and to withdraw approval of any benefits if it is determined at any time that the member has committed an intentional, deliberate and/or illegal act, either civilly or criminally.”
Section 1.D. is designed to give SSPBA carte blanche to get out of its contractual obligations, and denies the presumption of innocence.
How can SSPBA know if an officer has committed an “intentional, deliberate and/or illegal act,” if no court of law has made such a determination? Plus, SSPBA’s act of getting out of its contractual obligations could bring about the policy holder’s conviction in criminal court, via a self-fulfilling prophecy. The public knowledge that the SSPBA dumped its client could: 1. Poison the jury pool, by leading potential jury members to believe that the defendant is guilty of the crime for which he has been charged, simply because of SSPBA’s actions; and 2. Make it impossible for the defendant to mount an adequate defense. After the client is convicted, SSPBA can then harrumph, “We told you so!”
The SSPBA is bad news. It calls itself a “Police Benevolent Association,” but does not deserve the name. The name is apparently to deceive cops into thinking that it has their backs.
Indeed, while I was on hold waiting to speak with Charlie Cordell [the SSPBA’s lawyer], the telephone system played a self-commercial, in which a speaker emphasized that the group had no limits on spending for a policeman’s defense costs.According to Slager’s lawsuit, the SSPBA is essentially an insurance company selling policies to policemen to provide legal representation for “acts or omissions” committed in the line of duty, for which they are criminally charged, or civilly sued.
But not for Slager. [Why Don’t They Just Crucify Officer Michael Slager and Have Done with It? by Nicholas Stix, VDARE, April 30, 2015.]
If there’s one thing I learned from my neighbors, following Hurricane Sandy, it’s that insurance companies will seek any pretext to get out of paying out on policies.
The cops who have entrusted their legal protection to SSPBA are going to have to seek elsewhere.
Meanwhile, since Andy Savage has taken on Slager’s case pro bono, if Slager collects from SSPBA, Savage is going to have to collect from Slager.
The Post and Courier is running a poll at the article below.
What do you think?
Should the Southern States Police Benevolent Association have aided in Michael Slager’s defense against the murder charge in the killing of Walter Scott?
Yes, he paid dues to the organization specifically for legal defense in the event he is charged with a crime.
[N.S. Full disclosure: I voted yes in the poll. Without voting, I don’t see how I could have read the results.]
No, the organization should be able to decide what officers it helps defend.
I have no opinion.
PDF Slager lawsuit
Michael Slager sues police fraternal group for failing to defend him in Walter Scott killing
By Glenn Smith @glennsmith5
Nov 10 2015 3:09 p.m.
Nov 10 6:23 p.m.
The Post and Courier
Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager is suing a police fraternal organization for failing to defend him against a murder charge in the killing of Walter Scott.
For complete coverage of the Walter Scott shooting, go to Walter Scott.
Slager’s civil attorneys filed the lawsuit Tuesday against Southern States Police Benevolent Association Inc. in U.S. District Court in Charleston. The suit alleges breach of contract, unfair insurance practices and bad faith. It seeks unspecified damages.
The Southern States Police Benevolent Association is made up of more than 40,000 local and federal law enforcement officers. Its chief executive officer, Jack L. Roberts, was not immediately available for comment.
Slager paid the organization a monthly fee for insurance that would provide him a legal defense if sued or charged with a crime in connection with his actions as a police officer. But the organization abandoned him after Slager was accused in April of killing Walter Scott during an on-duty confrontation, according to the lawsuit.
“For us, it’s about how Slager paid $23.50 a month for one thing — to cover him if he got accused or sued if he did something in his capacity as a police officer,” said Ronnie Richter, Slager’s attorney. “Regardless of how you feel about the Slager situation, it seems to be an outrageous act by an insurance company to deny
Slager faces between 30 years and life in prison if convicted of murder in Scott’s April 4 shooting death, which followed a traffic stop and a struggle between the two men. A bystander’s video of the incident showed Slager fire eight times as Scott ran away, striking the 50-year-old man five times from behind.
The shooting made North Charleston the focus of national scrutiny on police officers’ use of force against black men. Slager is white, and Scott was black.
Slager was arrested three days later after the video footage surfaced.
Slager’s coverage through the PBA entitled him to legal representation for “any duty related shooting or action which results in death or serious injury,” according to the lawsuit. He has maintained that he was acting within the scope of his duties at the time. He has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge and remains jailed while awaiting trial.
The PBA initially assigned criminal defense attorney David Aylor to represent Slager. Aylor released a statement on his behalf the day before the video surfaced.
The next day, however, when Slager was charged with murder and the video of the shooting went viral around the world, Aylor withdrew as Slager’s lawyer, calling the incident “a terrible tragedy that has impacted our community.”
Slager requested that the PBA provide him with another attorney, but on April 8 the organization turned him down, the lawsuit stated. In doing so, the PBA cited a clause in its insurance coverage allowing it to withhold benefits if it determines an officer had “committed an intentional, deliberate and/or illegal act, either civilly or criminally,” the lawsuit stated.
Slager’s attorneys, however, argue in the suit that the PBA denied Slager benefits without a full and fair investigation into the matter, leaving him to foot a “substantial” legal bill on his own.
After Aylor’s departure, prominent Charleston defense lawyer Andy Savage stepped in to represent Slager and has done so ever since. Savage did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit filed on his client’s behalf.
Aylor also could not be reached for comment, though in the past he has declined to explain his decision to withdraw from the case, citing attorney-client privilege.
Representing Slager in the lawsuit against the PBA are Richter and attorney Eric Bland, who have made headlines in recent months for representing the family of Zachary Hammond, a teen who was fatally shot by a Seneca police officer in July.
Tony Bartelme contributed to this report.