After a week-long trial that included testimony from a self-proclaimed “lover-not-a-fighter,” a shackled and sedated “victim,” and an expert on police use of force who had never been a police officer, as well as the tragic death of the presiding judge, a Redding jury took only 3 hours to acquit Shasta Marshal’s Sergeant Dan Neville.
Shasta is one of only two counties in the state that is served by an independent Marshal’s office whose officers serve as bailiffs for the courts. The case arose out of an incident in a holding cell in the Shasta County Courthouse.
On March 22, 2004 a convicted felon named Raymond Iorg caused a ruckus during a family law hearing. Iorg, who was in custody on other charges, screamed that his wife was a “f_____g whore” and otherwise disrupted the proceedings. The judge ordered that Iorg be removed.
Iorg calmed down for a time, until he was placed into a holding cell while awaiting return to the county jail. First, Iorg kicked off his jail slippers which, apparently, caused him to land on the floor with a thud. Next, Iorg, despite being in leg irons and having his wrists cuffed to a belly chain, hopped up on a cement bench and began yelling various epithets into the cell’s vent. Iorg believed that this “jailhouse intercom” would allow his wife to hear his threats and curses.
The commotion drew the attention of another deputy. This self-described “lover-not-a-fighter,” began to engage the 240 pound tattooed Iorg in polite conversation. The deputy attempted to placate Iorg by expounding upon the fleeting nature of one’s problems and otherwise sharing his philosophies about the meaning of life. Apparently, Iorg wasn’t interested in this discourse and smashed his own head into the safety glass that separated him from the deputy.
Despite Iorg’s aggressive and irrational behavior, the deputy continued trying to be a “good listener” for Iorg. Suddenly, Iorg turned and bashed his forehead into the cell’s cinder block wall, causing blood to trickle down his shaved pate.
Fortunately for Iorg, as it turned out, Dan Neville arrived in response for calls for assistance on the radio. Sgt. Neville quickly assessed the situation. The deputy’s main concern seemed to be to obtain a camera to document the injuries, regardless of the fact that Iorg was continuing his assault on his own persona and the cell interior.
Sgt. Neville firmly told Iorg to “calm down, sit down” at least twice. Iorg’s response was to yell, “f__k you!”
Sgt. Neville was now faced with a large, belligerent, and defiant, inmate who, despite being restrained, had demonstrated both his pain tolerance and his agility. Accordingly, Sgt. Neville decided to use pepper spray—a low-level force option—as a means of controlling the deranged felon.
Neville asked the deputy working in the control room to open the sliding door. Neville warned Iorg that he was about to be sprayed if he did not obey his commands. Not surprisingly, Iorg did not comply.
Therefore, Sgt. Neville began to pepper spray Iorg. Iorg turned to get away from the spray and Neville continued to apply the spray to the back of his head. After several seconds, Iorg got down on the ground and scooted out of the cell as directed.
Sgt. Neville immediately began to assist Iorg and, in the words of one deputy, “consoled” him.
Under any reasonable standard, the situation ended perfectly: Iorg suffered only the expected irritation from the pepper spray and was taken back to the jail without further problems; no deputies were injured since they did not have to grapple with Iorg in the close confines of the holding cell.
However, the “lover-not-a-fighter” deputy had a different opinion. The next day, the deputy wrote a scathing memorandum to the Marshal essentially accusing Sgt. Neville of using excessive force.
Although the Marshal cleared Dan in an initial investigation, the case was referred to the District Attorney’s Office. For reasons unknown and unfathomable, the D.A.’s office filed a three count criminal complaint against Dan. In a concerted effort that has become all too common, the D.A. and the Marshal’s Office attempted to leverage a settlement: The D.A. offered that Sgt. Neville plead to an infraction that included as one of its terms “removal from office.” In other words, the D.A. was doing the Marshal’s dirty work by trying to convince Dan to drop the appeal of his termination and slide quietly off into the sunset.
The D.A. and the Marshal’s Office seriously underestimated Dan’s resolve. Dan did nothing wrong and was adamant that he would not accept any kind of a deal that would end his career.
On November 14, 2005, some 19 months after the incident, we began selecting a jury to hear Sgt. Neville’s case.
I explained to the jurors in my opening statement what they could expect from the prosecution. Among the D.A.’s witnesses were the “lover-not-a fighter,” a use of force expert who had never actually been a peace officer, and career criminal Raymond Iorg.
I believe that I delivered on my promises and demonstrated the weaknesses of the D.A.’s case during cross-examination: The complaining deputy was at a loss to explain his complete inaction. The deputy did, however, correct me by explaining that he was “empathizing” with the raging inmate, not “sympathizing” as I had suggested.
Among the other highlights was the testimony of the “victim” Raymond Iorg. Iorg arrived from state prison in shackles and leg irons and proceeded to simultaneously amuse and frighten everyone in the courtroom with his wild statements and menacing demeanor: Iorg even denied causing the contusion on his forehead. He testified that the injury occurred when one of the deputies tackled him from behind—-a claim that he had never made before and which was contradicted by all of the other witnesses.
At the conclusion of the prosecution’s evidence, it was clear to me that the jury was completely unconvinced. Accordingly, Dan and I decided to put on only one witness. We called Dave Rose, a retired lieutenant and 28-year-veteran of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, and an extremely experienced trainer and use of force expert.
Rose’s testimony was captivating as he clearly explained both the inherent dangers presented by Iorg and the obvious justification for Dan’s use of pepper spray, a low-level force option. When it was her turn to cross-examine Rose, the prosecutor stumbled into an unexpected trap. Apparently, trying to establish that the holding cell had been turned into a veritable gas chamber by the pepper spray, the D.A. asked Rose if the “fumes” weren’t dangerous why were the inmates in the neighboring cell able to smell the pepper spray?
Rose, in a demonstration of the quick thinking and level head that made him a great cop, analogized the odor of the spray to cooking on a stove: just because you can smell the spaghetti down the hall doesn’t mean it is actually getting on you. I asked Dave later if he had thought of that answer beforehand. Dave said that the explanation just came to him on the fly. It is moments like these that make trial work so interesting.
After hearing all of the testimony, viewing the other evidence and listening to closing arguments, the jury deliberated for a short time and came back with not guilty verdicts on the force charges. Although, the panel deadlocked on an allegation that Sgt. Neville filed a false police report, the resounding not guilty verdicts on the most serious charges and the prosecution’s claim that the allegedly false report had been concocted to cover up the force make a retrial on that charge unlikely.
Dan was, of course, extremely pleased and gratified by the jury’s vindication of his actions. Although Dan Neville’s journey is not completely over (stay tuned for the Arbitration of his termination from the Marshal’s Office) the jury’s verdict was certainly cause for celebration. Dan expressed his great thanks to the Legal Defense Fund for the support, which included the “usual and customary” assistance such as experts and investigators, and also a visit to the trial from LDF Legal Administrator Larry Friedman.
As a footnote, the trial was marred by the death of the original assigned judge, the Hon. Winslow Christian. Judge Christian presided over the first two days of the trial. He was struck and killed by a car while crossing the street to his hotel. Judge Christian was a retired Justice of the California Court of Appeal, First District. Judge Christian was assigned to the case as a visiting judge since the entire Shasta County Superior Court bench recused themselves.
Judge Christian had a long and distinguished legal career that included service as a Deputy Attorney General, the District Attorney of Sierra County, a Superior Court Judge and a Justice of the Court of Appeals. He was a graduate of Stanford Law School.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Judge Christian after court had adjourned for the day. He regaled me with a number of fascinating stories from his time on the bench as well as his career as an attorney. It was an honor to have tried a case before him.
PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.
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- Adam Laird Eureka POA
Dear PORAC Legal Defense Fund, This email has been weighing on my heart and should have been sent a long time ago. However, time seems to move fast even though your life has been put on hold. I have been on administrative leave since December of 2012. In April of 2013, I was arrested for the performance of my duties. Since the administrative side this case has not been resolved, I won't be getting into specific details regarding my case. However, I will say that I never thought that my life would turned upside down by doing the job that I love, and doing it in a way that I had been trained. I have been in Law Enforcement for 10 years, and I have been paying my monthly dues all along. I never really understood how important paying dues might be for me, I just thought it was the "cost of business". After being arrested, I understood the real worth of that investment. Because of politics, my case was given the "full court press". On January 3rd of 2014, the case against me was dismissed. It took no less than 5 experts to convince the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office to request dismissal. The time, effort, and money that this case cost couldn't have been endured by me as the sole provider of a family of four. LDF was there, big time. The panel attorney's under LDF were the best in the business. In the uncertain time during the criminal process, I couldn't have imagined how much help they could be. What a relief to know that LDF had my back. I am used to defending those who can't defend themselves. That's my job. When I was defenseless, LDF and the attorneys assigned to my case were my advocates and defenders. I thank you. My criminal attorney said it best at the conclusion of my criminal case: "Adam and his family are thankful that they can now move forward. The evidence showing Sgt. Laird was innocent was overwhelming. The expert EPD hired said that the suspect was rising up when Sgt. Laird pushed him back to the ground. The two experts that the DA’s office hired said that the force was reasonable and appropriate. The defensive tactics instructor who trained Adam said he acted consistent with his training in apprehending a high risk suspect in a dangerous situation. In total, five separate police practices experts reviewed the case and unanimously said Sgt. Laird acted appropriately". "It is hard to imagine what it must be like to risk your life apprehending a known gang member only to be charged with using excessive force when the suspect stated that he did not even feel the contact at issue. It is simply bizarre that Sgt. Laird was ever charged with a crime". Thank you. My family and I will forever be grateful for your service, Sergeant Adam Laird
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- Stephanie Haas Lyon Co SEA
When I first contacted LDF re: my case I was unsure of how well/poor I'd actually be represented. I was impressed beyond belief. From the timely responses from my attorney, his knowledge in my case, advising me what my rights were and where I stood. I felt like I was genuinely being protected from unwarranted and unfounded accusations and believe, as long as I am in the right, I have someone fighting for me. Thank you, Thank you.
- Grace Castro AFGE Local 2455 – Laredo, TX
My representative was very kind and showed he cared when explaining what my legal rights were when dealing with an internal investigation.
- Gina Reyes Broadmoor POA
[My representative] was wonderful! Even though my situation didn't end in my favor, he was very supportive, informative & patient. He always answered every email in a timely fashion and was very accessible. I appreciated everything he was able to do for me.
- Douglas Mansker Bakersfield POA
(My attorney) is a very good attorney, despite his young age. He kept me well informed throughout my legal matter and returned phone calls in a prompt manner. I was very satisfied with his performance and would not hesitate to be represented by him again.
- Aaron Delgado Monterey POA
My representative called me back promptly and kept me informed. I had the impression she cared and was there to help.
- Kenneth S. Blonski East Bay Regional Parks PMA
I was very pleased with my representative.
- Kelly K. Roe San Joaquin Co Corr Officers
[My representative] did a fantastic job at returning my phone calls and keeping me informed of any and all information pertaining to my case. I would recommend him to anyone.
- Thomas E. Lorente III Bart POA
[My representative] did an excellent job! I would highly recommend him to any officer in need of LDF services.
- Rich Stepper Montana PPA
[ My representative ] was very knowledgeable regarding dept & legal rules regarding officer involved shooting. Provided good legal advice & was very supportive.
- Brent Teasley ERS/Reno PSAEA
[ My representative ] was bogged down with multiple cases when he represented me, but I feel he did an excellent job. I would not have wanted anyone else to represent me during a very troublesome time.
- Jack Ellis Lompoc POA
An excellent plan. Very valuable to its members.
- Michael Shephard Suisun City POA
LDF is a very valuable resource. I would not do this job without it.
- Marco Flores Ventura County PPOA
Great program. I was lost until the attorneys explained the situation. I was very impressed and satisfied. Thanks LDF.
- Diana Drummey Coronado POA
I so appreciated my LDF rep - his kindness and understanding re my case during an embarrassing and uncomfortable time - he was so caring.
- Ernest Marugg San Diego Deputy DA Association
The LDF responded immediately upon my request for counsel. LDF provided the best representative I could receive! When I called LDF for advice, I was given advice again immediately. Thank you LDF for your concern.
- Ken Burbank Shasta Co DSA
[ My representative ] was professional, articulate and prepared, but most importantly he understood the emotional impact the investigation was having on me as a person and peace officer. I highly recommend [my representative].
- Robert Morales Rialto PBA
I was very pleased with the service I received
- Miguel Suarez Monterey Co DSA
[My representative] was very knowledgeable and courteous. He knew his stuff, and I couldn't have asked for a better guy to be on my side on this matter. Thanks.
- Jeff Stanley Upland POA
Excellent representation. [My representative] is a great attorney.
- Nancy Page Aurora PA
I didn't end up needing his service but he was awesome in what conversations we had before the matter was resolved. Very valuable - LDF!
- Michael Sexton Manteca POA
[My representative] was awesome.
- Albert Contreas Imperial Co. DSA
Thank you for your services.
- George Fierro El Monte POA
I am a firm believer that LDF serves an essential part in the assistance to protect an officer's POBR & in the integrity of an investigation or complaint. I highly recommend the law office of [My Represenative].
- Juan Pascua, Jr. San Diego Co DSA
Very helpful and very informative!
- Andrew J. Brice Santa Maria POA
As always... an excellent result.
- Ron Ruddy Riverside POA
- James Hika Border Patrol Supervisors Association
They did a great job!
- Matthew Gardner Colorado PPA
I would not want to be an officer without this coverage. It was great to have it and kept my mind at ease.
- Doug Plumhoff Ridgecrest PEA
Great job by all! Always great to know LDF is there when needed.
- Linda Mendez Imperial Co Prob and Corr
I'm very pleased with the services offered by the LDF. I feel so fortunate to enjoy the benefits of having the membership. The services provided by LDF to its members is simply 110% professional, supportive, great!! LDF care for its members is reflected by the quality of Best Law Firm offered, simply the best!
- Craig Caches Fremont POA
I have only used LDF once for myself, which with the circumstance was great. I work with LDF in my assignment ( OIS investigator ) and after approximately 4-5 OIS's, I have great experiences with LDF.
- James Beckman Miracosta College POA
Highly recommend this program for any LEO!
- Sherri Coral Riverside Community College
He was very professional. I trusted him to defend and he did! I am very thankful he was here for me.
- Paul Hernandez LA Gen Services POA Inc.
[My Representative] was very helpful in my situation and I can't thank him enough.
- Kevin Hullquist Siskiyou Co. Correctional POA
[My representative] did a good job representing me. Kept me informed.
- Billy Aldridge Chico POA
[My representative] was awesome! He provided an excellent explanation of the process and was very professional. This was my first IA in 11 years of LE and [my representative] did a great job of reassuring me that I had nothing to worry about. Thank you so much for all your help.
- Byron Kies Santa Barbara Co DSA
Everything was great!
- Gary J. Foppiano Oakland POA
[My representative] has been in my corner for 28 years. I have been represented by this firm probably 6 times in my career from minor to major discipline cases with a great outcome for me. They're batting 100%
- Dan McDow San Luis Obispo POA
[My representative] is the poster face representative of the greatest attorney (representative) that anyone could possibly ask for. She gets a 12 out of 10 star rating. Nobody works harder.
- Patrick Davis Oakland POA
Very knowledgeable and thorough and would use the rep again.
- Rodd N. Joseph Clearlake MMA
I appreciate the fact that my representative met with me in a social setting prior to the interview, during which time she learned the facts of the case. She was prepared for the interview. She seemed to have a genuine interest in my case.
- William Jackson Santa Maria POA
Keep up the great work.
- Micheal Chad Heiser Santa Rosa POA
LDF is a valuable resource that no law enforcement officer should be without.
- Christopher Walters Antioch POA
My LDF rep was very attentive, and courteous. She made every effort to keep me informed, and kept my best interests at the front of the process. I was very satisfied with my LDF rep, and the entire process.
- Brendan Tinney UC Berkeley POA
[My representative] has represented me twice now and both times I have been very pleased with his thoroughness with handling my cases. I appreciate all what LDF and [my representative] have done for me.
- Roman Fernandez Inglewood POA
My representatives were always well-prepared and organized for hearings and meetings. Their efforts, hard work and full support is truly appreciated.
- Jorge Garcia San Joaquin Co Corr Officers
No criticism to give. Very well.
- Jon Seabron Oceanside POA
[My Representative] was the best and if I ever need to call al lawyer again for anything, I'll be calling her.
- Larry Fitch Shasta Co DSA
My LDF rep was great, always returned my calls quickly and kept me up to date with what was going on with the case. Thank you.
- Robert Muelberg Denver PPA
I could not have had a better attorney. [My representative ] went way above and beyond his duties. I would not have had a better experience with my representative. I believe that the LDF is the single most important benefit a police officer could have!
- Gregg Palmer San Joaquin Co Corr POA
Everything was explained very well prior to my questioning. I was not worried at all during the investigation. Very professional and a great asset to its members.
- Jurell Snyder Oakland POA
My LDF representative had a power point presentation, which was extremely professional.
- Juan Espinoza Fresno DSA
[My representative] did a great job. He is both thorough and well educated. I would use him again.
- Wendy Morrow Chico Public Safety Association
I had never been through an I.A. in my 21 years. I was scared and ashamed and humiliated. ( My attorney ) was excellent. He helped me through one of the worst times of my life. Had great outcome and I am grateful.
- Kim Jasper Alhambra POA
Excellent service, prompt and courteous.
- Toinie Lee Jackson Madera Co DSA
Unfortunately, I have been placed in the position to use LDF several times in my career. Without their valued services, I would not be here to write this. I and my family thank you.
- Nestor Hernandez San Diego POA
This is a great program designed to protect LEO’s in need
- Stacey Bonilla San Mateo County DSA
[My Represenative] is an excellent attorney. He is very professional yet personable and I would definitely use him again. Thank you!
- Evelyn Hooks Shasta CO PPOA
Thank God for the L.D.F.
- Brian Schopf Elk Grove POA
Keep up the good work.
- Kip RIngen Lake Co DSA
My LDF rep kept me well informed concerning the progress of my case. I was extremely satisfied with the service I received. Thanks.
- Scott Muir Tracy POA
Very satisfied with the service I was given.
- Anthony Alonzo South Gate POA
Very pleased with the way the process was explained to me. Received updated info faster than I expected. Overall a good experience in a not so good situation. Thanks to LDF.
- Andrew Hill Statewide University PA
I have used this law firm for union related business for the last several years. It was a no brainer to call them for LDF.
- Scott Cox Tulare Co DSA
I just want to say [my representative] did a great job! Thank you.
- Paul Spencer Santa Paula POA
[My Representative] was great!
- William Burdette Newport Beach PMA
26 years and I have never needed a LDF rep, but the one time you need one, it was worth the fee’s paid.”
- Anthony Zack Vernon POA
This was the first time in my twenty-five year career that I had to use the services of my legal defense fund. My LDF Representative was extremely courteous, informative and professional.. She addressed all of my concerns and answered all of my questions. She did an overall outstanding job of representing me and handling my case. I could not have been any more pleased or satisfied with the job she did! I would definitely request her to represent me in the future if I needed representation.
- Robert Curato Anderson POA
He did a great job for me!!! He always returned my phone calls within 24-hours. He showed an interest in my case and we were able to get the issue resolved in less than 45 minutes. Thank you for being there when I needed the legal assistance.
- Gina Romines San Joaquin Co Corr POA
I couldn't have been more satisfied with the representative!
- Dan Lovelace Chandler LEA
Thank you for the funding and support. I would be in jail right now if it were not for LDF. I would not have had the funding to pay for the case. It was a tremendous help having [my representative] and his support team and the many experts supplied by LDF. I speak for myself, my family and other members of my association.
- Gilbert Garcia Oceanside POA
My attorney provided outstanding representation.
- Roy Iler San Benito CO LEM
[My representative] always returned phone calls and let me know if he was contacted with information.
- Kristen Patterson Contra Costa Co Prob. Assn.
[My representative] was helpful and made me feel supported. I got the results I desired. Very pleased with the process.