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Phil Sano found not guilty in bike light taser trial

Posted by on February 11th, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Phil Sano
(Photo © J. Maus)

The word is in — Phil Sano was found not guilty of resisting arrest on the night of June 10, 2008.

I got a voicemail from Phil at 2:18 saying “I’m free!” and that Phil plans to celebrate Mini Bike Winter with extra style this weekend.

We’ll keep you posted on Phil’s further exploits, and his planned civil suit.

For background on the incident and the trial:

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A-dub
Guest
A-dub

This is great for Phil, but what are the long-term benefits/repercussions of this verdict? Are there any?

velo
Guest
velo

Hell yes! Now I want to see him win a civil suit against the PPB. We need to reign in irresponsible policing behavior. It’s good to see a jury return a verdict like this.

Kt
Guest
Kt

Any other details about the verdict?

peejay
Guest
peejay

Go, Phil! Go civil suit! After reading the liveblogging of the first two days of the trial, it seems to me that a suit would be an easy win for Phil, and give him a unique voice in how to fix the PPB. If he works with some of the other police watchdog groups on the case, it could be about much more than money; it could be about change.

toddistic
Guest
toddistic

Booya!

Mr DeJerk
Guest

Hell YEAH!

Viva Phil! And to hell with PPB!

Jeff P
Guest
Jeff P

Congrats.

Won’t change a thing – not that a single court case would/could; guessing a follow-up civil wouldn’t do it either.

Duncan Watson
Guest

This does add to the pile of Taser abuse stories. Hopefully we can get Taser’s treated with more respect. There is no reason Phil should have been Tasered, especially twice at once.

SkidMark
Guest
SkidMark

I guess sometimes justice prevails.

Joe the Taxpayer
Guest
Joe the Taxpayer

Well, regardless of this outcome, I’m leery of his civil trial. If Mr. Sano achieves a large settlement or a jury awards him a large sum, who will pay for it? The same people that pay for the police. Us. Citizen taxpayers. A large chunk of change may indeed help Mr. Sano feel better, but regardless of the officers’ behavior, these reports indicate Mr. Sano suffered no lasting physical or emotional harm.

And if he somehow gets a large payment out of his civil suit, it will further hurt our already weak financial infrastructure. State sector and private sector jobs are being lost at an enormous rate, a rate not seen in Portland since the early ’80s. I sincerely hope Mr. Sano considers the other bike-riding, taser-fearing taxpayers in making his civil demands.

Joe the Taxpayer
Guest
Joe the Taxpayer

I should clarify – by “no lasting emotional harm” I mean that he’s not exactly suffering PTSD or Gulf War Syndrome or anything. I have no doubt that his experience was traumatic, but not on the level of what people often mean when they say “emotional harm.”

Zaphod
Guest

This is great news! Congratulations Phil

Zac
Guest

HELL YES

mark ginsberg
Guest
mark ginsberg

I am glad Rev. Phil was found not guilty. The facts supported that outcome and the jury after hearing all the facts agreed. I think the real loser in this is PPB Officer Ron Hoesly. He was the second officer at the scene. From what I have read, he was not the initial officer who Tazered Phil. But of course once his “partner” has started this mess, Officer Hoesly is forced to support his work-mate. Officer Hoesly has been fair to cyclists in the past and worked with the bicycling community and it saddens me to see him involved in this. My personally hope is that he comes out of this at least as supportive of cyclists as when this started. If any of you have ever seen a friend start a fight, sadly, while you might not agree with your friend, if you need to pick sides, you stick with your friend, or in this case, the fellow police officer.

joe adamski
Guest
joe adamski

If you have been part of the bike culture here in Portland for more than a couple years, you have, or know someone who has suffered an indignity or worse at the hands of the Portland Police. Things have improved markedly in recent times, which makes Phils case seem so much like a return to the ‘bad old days’.

At the end of the day, the City will bear the results of this and other cases. The officer(s) involved may have some penance to do, though probably not. PPB has such a difficult time recruiting adequate candidates,that it does not serve their best interests to punish or even dismiss the cops that fail to ‘meet standards”.

I am a little long in the tooth to consider this,but has anyone considered that change is best accomplished from within?

Among BP readerhip is a great number of accomplished and educated folks. Especially in light of economic uncertainty, would suggesting that some of our ranks apply and become the next generation of Portland Police?

With enough trained and motivated cops to staff a force of this size, it would be easier to nudge the lesser candidates to the side.

joe
Guest
joe

congrats!

one of the odd parts of this case is the revelation from the officers themselves that upwards of 550 pounds of law enforcement officers(even with all their hand to hand combat and weight training and weaponry) could not subdue phil?

in my experience, phil ain’t that tough. what does this say about our ppb? if they are that weak, no wonder they get their weapons out so frequently. be careful out there.

Seager
Guest

While I think that the first officer should face repercussions, all a civil suit would do it further burden an already straining city budget.

Yea, it’d be a great blow for cyclists, but it would also hurt relations between cyclists and non-cyclist because the financial impact will negatively influence many, many people.

John Russell
Guest

As I hoped. Thanks for your reporting on this!

michael downes
Guest
michael downes

Excellent coverage. Well done Elly…..and a result for Phil.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Congrats to Phil and his lawyer! Now if we can just ban tasers all together!!!

Paul Tay
Guest

Gooooooooooooooooooooooooo, Phil! FREE da PHIL! FREE da PHIL! FREE da PHIL!

PoPo
Guest
PoPo

I have been in a few fights on the job.

One of the major concerns is always controlling the hands and arms of a suspect, because they can grab for weapons or be weapons themselves.

My experience has been that if someone really does not want to be arrested, two officers are often not enough to quickly control and cuff hands.

You can try it by playing “resist arrest” with your friends. One person clenches their arms and fists in front of their body, then have two people try to pry his/her hands behind his/her back. The resister should also squirm around, turn his/her torso back and forth and generally make it hard to be controlled.

Anyway, it isn’t so surprising to me that they had trouble “subduing” Phil, but I’ve also had personal experience (not subduing Phil, just subduing!)

Coyote
Guest
Coyote

Elly TY for your excruciating diligence in reporting this trial. I am kind of a law order sorta person, it is my nature, but tasering someone for a lighting issue is excessive IMO.

Krampus
Guest
Krampus

Justice has been served and everyone knows it, even the cops.

Donna
Guest
Donna

It appears we are not the only city with taser problems.

http://stoptasers.org/

3-speeder
Guest
3-speeder

PoPo – Thank you for responding to this post.

I asked you a question in a long ago post published around the time of the original incident this trial is about. Perhaps you answered then but I never saw your response if you did answer. So I will ask again.

In a situation such as this where a bicycle rider’s only menace is riding without a light at dusk, if that bicycle rider fails to stop at a verbal command, does PPB policy allow that the next response by the officer should involve running up to the rider and grabbing the bike and/or rider to bring him/her to a stop?

There must be limits as to what an officer may do in such a situation. For example, I can hardly believe policy would permit the officer to draw a weapon and fire at the rider. Plainly, there are limits.

According to PPB policy, what would an officers permissable options be in this type of situation? Does PPB policy dictate some other action to be more appropriate before choosing to act in a way that would create direct officer-to-bike-rider contact?

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Smith was wrong and unprofessional to not vocally identify himself as a police officer. That opened the door for someone to divert his efforts to rightfully stop and confront them about the manner in which they were using a public road. In my view as an ordinary citizen, that’s sloppy police work.

The tasing: based on elly blues notes recounting their comments, the officers seemed to think tasing and multiple tasing was justified because he didn’t calm down and that after he was hit the first time, he failed to be compliant. I think it was Smith that said he smelled alcohol on Sano’s breath. That and Sano’s non-compliant behavior led the two officers to conclude that he might be BUI. Is that why the officers thought the tasing was justified?

During the time Sano was standing on the sidewalk after he’d been removed from the bike and the time the officers started tasing him, I wonder what questions they were asking Sano or further orders they might have given him(‘turn around, put your hands behind your back’…that sort of thing), and whether at that time, they told him he was under arrest. Elly’s notes say ‘no’, they didn’t tell him he was under arrest at that time.

If Sano’s behavior before them led them to conclude that he was either drunk, under the influence of drugs, or mentally deranged, posing a threat to society, was this their justification for proceeding to restrain him with the aid of the taser? How might the situation have been different if the cops hadn’t had the taser at their disposal? Draw your own conclusions.

Under the circumstances, I think it would have been wrong for Sano to be convicted of the charges. The police here were unprofessional and their methodology sucked. Rosie Sizer and all their police buddies should let them know how badly they performed.

At the same time, I’ve thought for a long while, and still do, that Sano knew exactly that the guy dressed in black approaching him from across the street was a cop. Sano knew exactly who they were, what they were up to, and gamed those fool cops. Set a neat little trap for them and they walked right into it. Officer stands there preaching the law to a pretty girl he’s stopped for noncompliance with the law, and then has to back it up when he sees the un-illuminated Sano slowly riding by across the street. Showing off. Officer should have just finished business with the girl and let Sano ride on by.

robert
Guest
robert

Will he still refuse to use lights at night?

peejay
Guest
peejay

robert:

Will you still refuse to get the facts straight?

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

#10 I can think of one way in which Phil has been permanently damaged, Criminal Defense lawyers aren’t free and he has had this nonsense hanging over him for months. I wonder if the charges had stayed dropped if there would be talk of a Civil Suit.

No such suit had been filed before the charges were reinstated, but now Phil has monetary damages beyond the initial pain and suffering. I think it would be nice if any settlement involved paying all phil’s legal bills, clarifying the policy for how an officer on foot should stop a cyclist (including banning foot patrol officers from tackling cyclists for equipment violations), and agreeing to stop issuing tasers to Portland Police Officers. It may end up costing more than that, but it isn’t Phil’s fault, he isn’t the one who violated the PPB’s taser policy.

That said in my experience Phil isn’t really motivated by money, there are probably bigger issues here for him. Settlements aren’t always just monetary.

robert
Guest
robert

peejay,

What are the facts? I was not being insincere. I thought that is what started all of this mess.

dave
Guest
dave

First OJ and now this!? What the $^$#^%

peejay
Guest
peejay

robert:

If your worldview is that everyone caught without a light is a committed anti-light lawbreaker, then you’re right. If, however, you read the facts, you would know that RevPhil had a light, but just had his bracket stolen, so he couldn’t use it. It was just turning dusk, so it’s a judgement call.

I, myself, have found myself riding without lights due to poor planning or dead batteries, yet I’m pretty solid in the pro-lights camp. Stuff happens. Some people don’t make overblown judgements about situations they know very little about. Some people do.

robert
Guest
robert

Hey PeeJay,

Calm down.

-Robert

Crowbar
Guest
Crowbar

This guy can get away with anything. His antics are crazy. It gets old after a while…

He doesn’t need the money; he’s probably got a trust fund and is playing punk for attention. Ahem. Rev?

t27
Guest

Tasers are interesting tools. They claim to reduce the possibility of lasting injury to police and suspects. Used properly this is probably true. However, they appear to have a significant downside. In the wrong hands they may be used for torture that doesn’t leave any marks. To protect against these claims, the latest models are available with audio and video recording to protect the police from lawsuits over justifiable use. Or, maybe to deter the use of tasers for torture. How would they look if we called them by a less tech sounding name – cattle prode.

John Peterson
Guest
John Peterson

Way to go Phil and his lawyer! Totally sue…even though it hurts us taxpayers…it seems to be the only recourse for victims of police brutality. Maybe one day the city and PPB will realize that brutality is more trouble than its worth.

girl-shawn
Guest

Hi, Bjorn #30! Phil was represented by a court-appointed lawyer, and, AFIK, won’t have any payments to make for this criminal trial. The traffic court case, on the other hand….well, a few hundred bucks in traffic tickets seems worth it to expose this injustice.

BURR
Guest
BURR

Congrats to Phil! See you in the streets!

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

benefit for phil! Let’s take up a collection on Friday from all the “poor” zoobombers! Hooray!!! Huzzah! Can I put any more explanation points on this?

Crow Magumb
Guest
Crow Magumb

benefit for phil! Let’s take up a collection on Friday! Hoorah!! Huzzah! Can I put any more exclamation points on this?

Its good to see that the cops can’t get away with everythng. congrats!

Krampus
Guest
Krampus

Robert: Don’t be annoying about it. You asked what the facts were and PeeJay told you what they were. Don’t reply with “calm down.” His post was totally rational and not even remotely hot headed.

Racer X
Guest
Racer X

Remember Bikeportland readers to hit the paypal button below to send your bike love for Elly’s 3 days of coverage at the trial. (She could have been covering other topics.)

Perhaps this coverage may help us (bicyclists) in a future PPB traffic stop – to limit it spinning out of control for something like a missing head lamp.

How many car drivers are tackled and tazed for a missing head lamp these days?

Mike
Guest
Mike

I’m very relieved! Congratulations Phil. And thanks for the great coverage Elly.

I also believe that the officers should be disciplined.

In response to mark (post 14) who said you have to side with your friend when a conflict breaks out: I agree, but that doesn’t mean you escape the consequences are any different.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Mmm, Racer X. Darn good beer.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

I understand how people are concerned about the economy and the city budget, but it is absurd to suggest that a victim of an overzealous police action should refrain from a civil suit on behalf of the greater good. If I’m tasered by the police, then vindicated by a court of law as not resisting arrest, you can be damn sure that I’m filing a civil suit.
If a civil suit succeeds, and Sano gets some compensation, then the police force will (hopefully) be compelled to rethink its tasering policy. And isn’t that the point?

trackback

[…] to Bike Portland, Portland’s Reverend Phil was found “not guilty” of resisting arrest after being […]

Mike
Guest
Mike

Racer X-
If the driver refused to pull over for an undercover police car, then was “resisting” arrest, while the officer smelled alcohal on his breath? You bet your @@@ that driver would get tased. Not only that, but most of the commenters here would be supportive, feeling that one less unsafe driver was on the road.
Aaron-
I mentioned the civil suit in the last article. My thoughts are this: who does the suit benefit? Truly? Only the “victim”. PBB will not instate some pro-cyclist training program, the officers will not be fired, PBB will not suffer. Phil could make an obscene amount of money and the Taxpayers will suffer. That’s all, end of story. The questions are these: How much will Phil make the taxpayers suffer and for what purpose? Personal gain, set up a wrongly accused cyclist fund, keep bike friendly attorneys on retainer for incidents like this (although he would probably end up using the bulk of that anyway)?

peejay
Guest
peejay

Krampus:

Exactly!

peejay
Guest
peejay

Mike:

How do you know what Rev Phil will do? Do you know him?

And, how do you know that the PPB won’t change if they have to keep paying out large settlements. As I recall, when Los Angeles had all of its police brutality cases, the reason the city worked so hard to get the commissioner out of office is that it was costing the city tens of millions of dollars a year in settlements. To the extent that we have a disfunctional PPB now, we will continue to have one until such time as the city can no longer afford not to fix it. If it costs us as taxpayers some money to have this happen, then I guess its our fault as voters for not making this a bigger issue during elections.