Alex Blaze

Cop who beat Duanna Johnson gets two years prison

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 27, 2010 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: beating, bridges mcrae, Duanna Johnson, LGBT, Memphis, police, police brutality, police violence, Tennessee, transgender

Bridges McRae pled guilty to violating Duanna Johnson's civil rights after his first trial ended in a hung jury. He could have been convicted the second time around and gotten ten years, but he pled and got two.

duanna-johnson.jpegA month before McRae was set to be retried his attorney's reached a plea deal. Will Batts, Executive Director of The Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center is happy McRae will serve time behind bars, but feels two years is a light sentence. "It's incredibly senseless. It's hard to imagine somebody watching that and not feeling horror."

McRae's attorney says the former Memphis Police Officer is sorry for his actions, and she feels the punishment is reasonable. "Mr. McRae was put into a situation where he's an officer in a dangerous city," Attorney Lauren Fuchs tells "He was on a long shift and at the end of that shift, an altercation happened and he overreacted."

Closing the books on this criminal trial means a civil suit is around the corner. Attorney Murray Wells is suing McRae and the City of Memphis on behalf of Duanna Johnson's family. Wells says he's suing for a change in policy and for money. "The case is very important because I think it exposes light on people treating others differently based on who they are and I think that's something that needs to change."

All someone needs to prove that a white, straight, Bible-toting police officer beat a black trans woman accused (but never convicted) of prostitution is for another police officer to have a crisis of conscience that forces him to tell the truth:

Swain said he initially lied to police internal affairs investigators in telling them that Johnson was the aggressor.

"I didn't want to be the police officer to be the rat or the snitch on another police officer," said Swain, who changed his account when he learned there was a videotape of the incident. "(Authorities) said if I tell the truth I would not be prosecuted."

An attorney willing to create a stir and not let go:

Since the release of the video last week, Wells said that he received a "tremendous number" of phone calls from people who had gone through similar incidents, with McRae and other officers. Looking at the case history, he said that the department's constant defense in the few cases that make it to trial is that this is just one bad cop.

You know, after a while that defense starts to sound a little hollow.

And for the entire thing to be caught on video:

Even with all that, some jurors might not think that the law was broken. So the police officer in question has to be sufficiently scared something might happen and plea it out.

Remember, just because the entire system is set up to protect police officers who beat civilians doesn't mean that the actions of a few bad apples should reflect on the entire police force. Why would you ever think that the problem is systemic?

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I'm not defending his actions in the slightest, but it is fair to note that Swain wasn't a tenured police officer -- he was a rookie on his initial probation period, which means that he can be (and was) fired at the drop of a hat. I think it says something very worrisome about the corrupting nature of police authority that the rookie who had everything to lose did have the integrity to come forward in the end, whereas none of the cops who had job protection did.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 28, 2010 11:17 PM

So much for Obama's vaunted signature on the Democrats halfhearted hate crimes bill.

It's as much a farce as the idea that we can get justice in a banana republic the US.

I was more concerned with the truth-seeking process, which may have resulted in no action. But two years? That seems like a lot of time to me for assaulting someone. Plus he lost his job, so he'll just be another violent man if he does this again.

Anyway, these sorts of crimes can't be fought with a piece of federal legislation. The solution, should there ever be one, will be lots of smaller victories at the state and local level, plus ongoing cultural changes and education.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | August 30, 2010 9:43 AM

I disagree.

There aren't any real solutions for the violence directed against us short of fundamental social change.

How to stop homohating discrimination, harassment and violence is another question that will never be resolved by incrmetalism. It'll be resolved when we break with the twin parties and create an independent mass action fighting movement and combine with unions and other mass action movement to create a socialist society.

A socialist government can impose harsh penalties on racists, islamophobes, union busters, homohaters, immigrant bashers and cult interference in civil society and make them stick.

The only imaginable good effect of the Hate Crimes Act would be better statistics, and even that is problematic. Too few people, seeing the fate of Duanna Johnson and others, are willing to file complaints.