A federal judge has threw out a case against a Madison, Alabama police officer that was federally indicted for a civil rights violation last year.
Officer Eric Parker was facing up to 10 years in prison after he had responded to a call on Feb. 6 about a suspicious person walking on Hardiman Place Lane. The caller said he had seen the man before and was nervous about leaving his wife home alone.
Sureshbhai Patel, who does not speak English, had arrived in the country about a week earlier. His son, Chirag Patel, is an engineer for a government contractor.
Chirag Patel said his father had received permanent resident status and had come from the Indian town of Pij to help care for his 17-month-old grandson. He said his father liked to take a walk in the morning.
Video from a dashboard camera shows Parker and another officer confront Patel – who was merely walking on the sidewalk outside his son’s home – before Parker can be seen slamming the 57-year-old to the ground.
Watch the raw footage:
Following the incident, Madison police called paramedics but Patel was left partly paralyzed. He was transferred from Madison Hospital to Huntsville Hospital where he underwent spinal surgery.
“He was just walking on the sidewalk as he does all the time,” Patel’s son said. “They put him to the ground.”
Patel was not charged with any crime and Parker was suspended while the Madison police department investigated his use of force in the case. Later, in March, the officer was indicted for “deprivation of rights under color of law.”
His indictment accused him of violating Patel’s right “to be free from unreasonable seizures, which includes the right to be free from the use of unreasonable force by one acting under color of law.”
Patel’s attorney has also filed a civil federal suit against Parker and against the City of Madison but that suit was on hold pending the outcome of his criminal proceedings.
On Wednesday, Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala threw out the case against Parker, and filed a 92-page opinion, that ended with her stating: “The Government has had two full and fair chances to obtain a conviction; it will not have another.”
Prosecutors had already tried Parker twice with each ending with a deadlocked jury. At the end of the second trial on Nov. 4, defense attorneys for the officer argued that the government had failed to support the civil rights charge and moved to acquit.
Judge Haikala had not ruled for more than two months, until yesterday, after federal prosecutors had filed a motion arguing against acquittal. Haikala took swift action in the face of the motion and struck the case down completely.
Parker still faces a state charge of misdemeanor assault in Limestone County that carries up to one year in prison. He argued in court that he thought Patel had a weapon and was “going for it.”