Over two years ago, Utah resident Mark Byrge was severely brutalized after American Fork Police officers learned he had an unpaid traffic ticket when he called them to report a minor accident.
You can find the particulars of the ordeal here, but to make a long story short, Mark was permanently injured after police crushed his spinal cord stimulator. Though Mark informed the officers on multiple occasions that he was disabled and would require to be hand-cuffed in the front, they did not honor his request.
Throughout the ordeal, Mark was slammed, pushed, thrown to the ground and jumped on resulting in the malfunctioning of a $50,000 piece of hardware. Spinal Cord Stimulators (SCS) allow individuals to deal with limited mobility and moderate to sever back and leg pain, which in Mark’s case resulted from four back surgeries. They exert pulsed electrical signals to the spinal cord.
Mark recently spoke with Police State Daily about his battle for justice, his ongoing health problems, and his campaign for the Utah State Legislature, where he hopes to represent his states 56th district after the November general elections.
PSD: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Mark. Its been twenty six months since your ordeal with American Fork Police; How is your health doing?
MARK: In the interest of brutal honesty, I would have to say my health has become a living nightmare. I awake racked with pain daily. In fact, it is usually pain that wakes me. I go to sleep in pain. The nights I do not go to sleep in pain is only because the pain is too severe to sleep at all. Pain medication is virtually ineffective.
The incident with the Officers caused not only my SCS (Spinal Cord Stimulator) to be damaged and stop working, as the Diagnostic test ran by the Tech for Boston Scientific proved – the new damage has manifest its self as C.R.P.S. or Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome. This is an extremely painful syndrome that strong evidence shows is incurable.
My pain is tantamount to someone sneaking up and shoving a red hot razor blade under my toenail. My SCS used to trick my mind into not feeling this pain. Unfortunately for me, the pain is back. But it is no longer just in my big toe. The C.R.P.S has consumed my whole right foot. It is so bad that the hair has fallen off. The big toe is deformed and has taken on a dull blue black color because the body is trying to kill it off by stopping the blood circulation to it. The other toes are at varying stages of this dysfunction. Some are swollen and distorted and no longer resemble toes.
C.R.P.S., as reported on the scale that Doctors use to assess pain, is 42 points out of 50 – 50 being the worst pain imaginable. It is higher on the scale than CHILD BIRTH & LIMB AMPUTATION. With a renewed respect for my mother, I say that eventually the baby is born, or the pain of the amputation resides. C.R.P.S. is relentless and never stops.
That is my health now.
PSD: After failing to get justice in the criminal courts, we understand you are still pursuing a civil suit against the American Fork Police Department. How is that going?
MARK: You know to be honest I never really expected to win anything in the Criminal Court case. Especially after I saw the way the City Attorney worked the system to stack the deck. I remember going in for the pre-trial hearing where I would be allowed to plead guilty or not guilty. Upon entering a not guilty plea, Timothy Merle, the Assistant City Attorney, began his scheme of a trial. It is my belief that Merle committed Malicious Prosecution and used perjured testimony to gain a favorable verdict in the prosecution. I believe, he knew Officer Gianefelice perjured his testimony, yet still used it to obtain a guilty Verdict. I wish I could afford an appeal.
The City Attorneys Rep. began manipulating the system and did so by the following cheap (totally Legal, for now) trick. When I entered my plea as NOT GUILTY, Mr. Merle stood and asked the Court to allow him to modify the charging document and charges from a “misdemeanor”to an “infraction.” It almost sounded as if the Prosecution was trying to help by lowering the degree of the charge. That is until the Judge then turned to me and said, “OK, Mr. Byrge, you are no longer entitled to a Jury trial, a right I believed was up to the defendant.
During my next appearance I informed the Judge that my health had deteriorated to the point of closing my Currier Company, leaving me unemployed. Therefore I would be requesting a public defender. Mr. Merle stood again and this time requested to amend the charges again. He requested the District Court allow him to charge me with a Citation and stated that he would not seek jail time. With that, the Judge informed me since the City was not seeking jail time, my liberty was not in jeopardy – and for that reason I was no longer entitled to an appointed attorney.
So now not only had this weasel of an attorney, Mr. Merle, prevented my Constitutional right to a Jury trial. He also had just successfully manipulated the Court to force me, a layman, to pay more for an Attorney than the amount I was being fined.Unable to do this, I was ordered to return in 30 days to defend myself at trial. It became crystal clear to me that this Assistant Prosecutor was willing to try anything to win at all costs.
So, how are the Civil Court proceedings going? I can only say very slowly. It is extremely hard to find an Attorney in Utah who will sue the Police without wanting a handsome toll of a retainer. I think I have found one of the best. He is a young and intelligent Attorney. He has a Master’s Degree in Law and I believe he is in it for the right reasons. I have to say however, that he does not like me giving these interviews. He explained it to me like this, “It is my job to make sure this City makes you whole. The only way they can, is by paying you. They are going to want as part of any settlement, your confidentiality.” I have tried to explain that I understand that’s what they want, and that is something that may happen in the future. But in the meantime I have an obligation to society, my neighbors and the Citizens of American Fork to warn them and possibly prevent this officer from hurting someone else. I could not live with myself if I stay quiet and this officer injures or ruins someone else’s life.
PSD: Mark, you are trying to unseat Republican incumbent Kay Christofferson to represent a conservative district in what many would say is the most conservative state in the union, Utah. Are you hopeful of a victory or is your campaign more about raising awareness about police brutality?
MARK: Believe me, I knew what a long shot this Campaign was the day I signed on to run on the Democratic ticket. I first thought this could be a great way to get the facts and evidence out regarding the corruption in the American Fork Police Department. Then, I started speaking to citizens. At yard sales, at grocery stores, and pretty much everywhere the opportunity presented itself. The one consistent answer I was receiving regardless of the age, gender, or income level was, “IT IS ABOUT TIME! YOU’VE GOT MY VOTE!”
I started to shift my thoughts from just making a splash and fuse about my own case of Officer Brutality. When I pull this off, I can start limiting the actual laws these bully officers use to stack against anyone who claims they are going to file a complaint. I thought I can actually win this thing and start making a difference. Even though I am running on the Democratic ticket, my political affiliation has always been Republican. The Conservative Vs. Liberal narrative that people will inevitably make this race about just doesn’t apply. This is about right and wrong.
I believe in the second amendment, and will fight to widen the opportunity for citizens to use their Rights to their advantage. I didn’t get tired of living in a conservative State, I got tired and sickened at the “GOOD OL’E BOY” CLUB the Republican party has become. With no checks & Balances, the district Republican Party consists of the same people who have taken away citizen’s rights by using legal games to deny me a jury trial. Its members refuse to investigate Police brutality. They have condoned abusing a citizen with a disability and are content at protecting their own, instead of seeing justice done.
I am in this race to win it, and I don’t care what side of the Isle I have to attack to see that these laws that protect corrupt officers are over turned. I am going to win this election!
PSD: If you do win, what steps would you take to rein in the abuse of police power?
MARK: People are tired of hearing about another person being assaulted by a police officer every other day. Another pet. Another furry part of the family shot and killed because there is no accountability to anyone other than those in the same department. Right now in Utah County, Utah you have to take a complaint to the officers Chief and he will decide if it is a crime and whether or not to prosecute. I am running with the intention that every City with a PD make room in the budget for a Citizen Oversight Committee.
I am pushing for “CITIZEN OVERSIGHT COMMITTEES’’ to be responsible for the video produced by each officers own recording device. They will hold the recordings for the period of time that would match the statute of Limitation of possible complaints. The committee would also be responsible for deciding if complaints warrant charges, and the City Attorney would ultimately prosecute what cases the committee chooses to refer. In the event there are no complaints, the Committees will review recordings of officers shifts to make sure they are doing their job properly. If they find the officer is not, he or she will be responsible for the hours they were paid to be working.
Some Committees across the country have saved enough money to cover the cost of the addition of the Committee by just making sure the hours paid for are for hours worked. If officers don’t think this is an acceptable way to work, then maybe they should seek an alternative profession. If we are to entrust police with our lives, the least they can do is video their full shift and be accountable to those that pay their salary. Also, if there is no video, there is no pay!!!
PSD: We really appreciate you speaking with us Mark, we think your story though obviously unfortunate and appalling is an important one that can now be used to educate people about what is going on regarding police brutality in not only your area but nationwide. You obviously feel the same way having recently said of your campaign that you want to do anything you can to prevent what happened to you from happening to somebody else. Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about your ongoing fight against the AFPD or your campaign?
MARK: Yes I would like to let your readers and any supporters of mine know that just because you don’t live in Utah doesn’t mean you can’t call people living in the 84003 ZIP CODE (District 56). There is no law that says you can’t call and encourage voters to make the right choice. Remember if it can work here, and it proves itself, the citizen oversight program could be changed and modified to fit any department in the nation. LET MY CAMPAIGN BE THE START OF REGAINING POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY!
PSD: Is there anyway readers can support you? From the response we got regarding our last story about you, an ongoing theme was a multitude of people asking how they could donate to your campaign and legal fund. Is there anyway people can get in touch with you to send donations?
MARK: I have been touched by the courtesy of the average citizen and the concern they have for their rights. I never wanted to be the poster child of Police Brutality, but if it will save even just one future victim, then I will gladly use my misfortune as an example of what can happen to anyone!
As you can imagine it has been very tough to even make ends meet after my assault. Any support, financial or physical, will be accepted proudly. Anyone wishing to can contact any Zion’s Bank, either in person, by phone or online to donate to my legal fund against AFPD. Also or if you wish to contribute to my Campaign for State House of Representatives, remember to note the contribution as such so it can be claimed on the financial disclosure documents.
PLEASE SEND SECURE TRANSFERS TO:
Mark E. Byrge Sr.
Or Via Paypal to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to everyone. EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR can and will help. Remember, this is still THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, “THE LAND OF THE FREE.” Many men fought and died so we could have the rights we have. The least we can do is preserve those rights. Please help me guarantee that no more AMERICAN CITIZENS ARE ALLOWED TO BE CRIPPLED BY THE POLICE STATE. With your help we can start turning things around in Utah County. Thank you for your support.
As Mark continues to preserver, with the dignity of a police brutality survivor, it is safe to say that in the court of public opinion he has been vindicated against the claims of his abusers.
Despite being slandered on National Television with baseless and unsubstantiated claims regarding his case, which were factually disproved by eye witness testimony, diagnostic testing of his medical device, and the excellent investigative journalism of Channel 2’s Chris Jones – Mark has risen to the occasion and made lemonade out of lemons.
We are hopeful Mark will continue to get the attention he deserves as Election day approaches. In a district where the incumbent won the 2012 election by only around 10,200 votes, we are confident that if Mark receives above average funding he can take the District 56 seat. If contributing to the dissolution of the American Police State is important to you, please, support the Mark Byrge campaign.