Buddy the prisoner grabbed the genitals of two male corrections officers nine months apart, but the videos did not demonstratively show his recidivist clenching.
[W]e cannot say that the jury clearly lost its way and created such a manifest miscarriage of justice that the convictions must be overturned.
State v. Bullock
2022 – Ohio – 925
First District Appellate Court
Hamilton County, Ohio
March 25, 2022
August 7, 2019 Genital Grab
On Wednesday August 7, 2019, Mr. Buddy Bullock met with Parole Officer Crawford and Parole Officer Ashely Autry in the Hamilton County Justice Center. Mr. Bullock had been arrested for a parole violation. The officers were there to inform Mr. Bullock that he WAS going to be released from jail but he had a conditional release.
Corrections Officer Jacob Miles testified that he was asked to supervise the visit because Officers Crawford and Autry were concerned about Bullock becoming “irate.” Officer Miles testified that Mr. Bullock started cursing at the officers when Crawford told him that he would have to attend a “treatment program.” Miles told Bullock three times that the officers were there to help him get released and that he needed to calm down and watch his language. Mr. Bullock then directed his anger toward Officer Miles and started cursing at him. Officer Miles told Mr. Bullock that he would be placed in his cell until he was released.
Mr. Bullock responded that he was not going to get up from his seat. Officer Miles testified that he attempted to escort Mr. Bullock back to his cell, but when he grabbed Mr. Bullock, he resisted by pulling away. Officer Miles testified that he utilized a “takedown” to get Mr. Bullock to the ground and once they were on the ground, Mr. Bullock grabbed and squeezed his genitals. Officer Miles testified that the pain caused his whole body to “lock up.” He testified that he has hereditary angioedema and, as a result, trauma to his body can cause significant subcutaneous swelling. Officer Miles did not undergo any medical treatment as a result of Mr. Bullock’s assault, but he experienced pain in his genitals the rest of the day and went home early from work. Officer Miles testified that Mr. Bullock also punched him in the face twice, but the punches did not make “good contact.”
The incident was recorded by surveillance video. The video did not record audio, but it shows Mr. Bullock talking with the parole officers and becoming agitated. Eventually, Officer Miles approached Mr. Bullock, grabbed him by his left arm, and pulled him out of his chair. Mr. Bullock resisted. Officer Miles took Mr. Bullock to the ground, landing on top of him. While Officer Miles was on top of Mr. Bullock, Mr. Bullock reached his right hand down into the area of Officer Miles’s genitals. Because Officer Miles’s body is blocking the camera’s view, the video does not show whether Mr. Bullock grabbed Officer Miles’s genitals.
The video shows that Officer Miles punched Mr. Bullock in the side, rolled over on top of him, and continued to punch him in the side while Mr. Bullock wrapped both of his arms around Officer Miles’s back. Another deputy arrived and grabbed Mr. Bullock’s arm. Officer Miles continued to punch Mr. Bullock in the head and body. Mr. Bullock rolled onto his stomach and put his hands over his head. Officer Miles continued to punch Mr. Bullock while the other deputy attempted to get control of Mr. Bullock’s hands. Eventually, more deputies arrived and they placed Mr. Bullock in handcuffs.
Officer Miles testified that he punched Mr. Bullock to cause pain, but not injury. He described the technique as “pain compliance” and testified it was an approved method in the use-of-force manual and that he was trained in the use of pain compliance at the academy. However, on cross-examination he refused to identify where in the manual it discussed pain compliance.
Parole Officer Autry testified that Mr. Bullock became upset with Officer Crawford and began to raise his voice and curse at the officers. Once the fight began, she and Officer Crawford stood to the side, in accordance with Justice Center regulations. She testified that she saw Mr. Bullock grab Officer Miles’s testicles.
May 16, 2020 Genital Grab
On Saturday May 16, 2020, Corrections Officer Spenser Greene was working at the Justice Center when he was approached by Mr. Bullock. Officer Greene testified that Mr. Bullock was angry and yelled at him because he had not been given dinner that night or the night before. Officer Greene told Mr. Bullock that an officer had gone to retrieve more food, and he directed Mr. Bullock to go back to his cell and wait until food was brought to him. Mr. Bullock returned to the pod (shared common area), but did not return to his cell. Corrections Officers Ryan Neiheisel and Lee entered the pod to escort Mr. Bullock to his cell.
Officer Neiheisel testified that he told Mr. Bullock twice that he would not get dinner until he returned to his cell. Mr. Bullock refused and told Officer Neiheisel to take him to “the hole.” Officer Neiheisel attempted to put Bullock in the “escort position” by grabbing his
arm. Mr. Bullock grabbed Officer Neiheisel and a struggle ensued. Officer Neiheisel testified that Mr. Bullock was ignoring his commands and he felt that Mr. Bullock was attempting to put him in a headlock, so he punched Mr. Bullock in the stomach. Officer Neiheisel testified that at that point, Mr. Bullock dropped to a knee and grabbed his testicles. Officer Neiheisel told him to let go and punched him two more times. Officer Neiheisel and Officer Lee got Mr. Bullock on the ground and held him there until responding officers arrived.
Surveillance video captured most of the incident, but at the beginning of the altercation the parties were pushed up against the wall directly underneath the camera and the camera’s view was partially obscured. The video shows that Mr. Bullock wrapped his right arm around Officer Neiheisel. Officer Lee attempted to get control of Mr. Bullock’s left arm, but the camera’s view of Mr. Bullock’s left arm is obscured. The video shows that Officer Neiheisel punched Mr. Bullock in the stomach three times, and then the three of them went to the ground. The struggle continued on the ground and Officer Neiheisel punched Mr. Bullock four to five more times in the stomach.
Mr. Bullock was tried and convicted of two counts of assault for grabbing the testicles of Officer and Officer Neiheisel. Mr. Bullock was tried and convicted of assault. He appealed the convictions based on the lack of video evidence in both assaults.
Mr. Bullock argues the testimony of the officers was contradicted by the surveillance video footage and therefore was not credible.
It is unclear from the video whether Mr. Bullock grabbed Officer Miles’s genitals because the camera’s view is blocked by Officer Miles’s body. But the video does not contradict Officer Miles’s testimony as Mr. Bullock claims. In judging Officer Miles’s credibility, the jury was free to consider that Officer Miles may have used force that was not approved by the use-of-force manual and that Officer Miles did not get hit in the face as he claimed. But neither of those facts formed the basis of Mr. Bullock’s assault convictions. His convictions stemmed from grabbing Officer Miles’s genitals, and the jury did not clearly lose its way in believing Officer Miles’s testimony on that point. ]
Bullock also argues that Officer Autry’s testimony that Mr. Bullock grabbed Officer Miles’s genitals was “questionable” because Officer Autry’s view was blocked by Officer Miles’s and Mr. Bullock’s bodies. The video shows that the alleged grab happened right in front of Officer Autry and due to the positioning of Officer Miles’s and Mr. Bullock’s bodies it is possible that she saw Mr. Bullock grab Officer Miles’s genitals. The jury was in the best position to judge her credibility.
Regarding the May 16, 2020 incident, Mr. Bullock argues that Officer Neiheisel caused the fight by grabbing him and that during the majority of the altercation Mr. Bullock tried to keep his hands underneath himself. For these reasons, he contends that he did not knowingly cause physical harm to Officer Neiheisel.
The video does not show Mr. Bullock grab Officer Neiheisel’s genitals. But the video does not contradict Officer Neiheisel’s testimony as Mr. Bullock claims. Furthermore, Officer Neiheisel grabbed Mr. Bullock after he refused multiple orders to return to his cell, and what Mr. Bullock did with his hands after he grabbed Officer Neiheisel’s genitals is irrelevant.
After a review of the record, we cannot say that the jury clearly lost its way and created such a manifest miscarriage of justice that the convictions must be overturned.
- What this case demonstrates is the continuing burden of proof shift by law enforcement for conviction. Courts are increasing the demand of video proof irrespective of testimony or written documentation. Consider what the First District Appellate Court stated in pertinent part in this case: “Because Officer Miles’s body is blocking the camera’s view, the video does not show whether Mr. Bullock grabbed Officer Miles’s genitals.” … and “The video does not show Mr. Bullock grab Officer Neiheisel’s genitals. But the video does not contradict Officer Neiheisel’s testimony as Mr. Bullock claims.”.
- Even though this is a corrections-based case the analysis is the same.Officers must assure that written documentation is commensurate with video, down to every finite detail. Otherwise, defendants and legal counsel will challenge even the smallest of discrepancies. The Sixth Circuit Appellate Court previously challenged the Euclid Police Officers who witnessed a violator fail to use a turn signal twice because there was no video evidence; “The officers maintain that at both turns, Wright failed to use his turn signal, but there is no dash-cam footage or other evidence to confirm the officers’ word. Wright insists that he did use his turn signal in both instances.”. Wright v. Euclid, No. 19 – 3452 (6th June 18, 2020). See The Sixth Circuit Holds Mr. Wright was Wronged.
- The expectation of law enforcement continues to increase, and the ever-present video is almost a mandate.This too can be seen in the State of Ohio as recently the governor and state legislature have provided ten million dollars in grants for body worn cameras. Cameras will occasionally capture law enforcement acting unreasonably. However, the cameras overwhelmingly going to capture suspects acting unreasonably and often violent.
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Don’t let your training fail you!
Be safe, smart and Objectively Reasonable!