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Columbia judge orders city to turn over files in Five Points arrest case

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Jonathan McCoy (at left) questions the officers arresting Allen McAlister (striped shirt) Jonathan McCoy (at left) questions the officers arresting Allen McAlister (striped shirt)

By Jody Barr - email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A Myrtle Beach attorney, arrested in October and charged with interfering with an arrest in Five Points, was in a Columbia courtroom Thursday.

At the hearing, attorneys for Jonathan David McCoy asked the judge to make the city turn over discovery materials. McCoy's attorneys argued city prosecutor Constance Holloway had not turned over documents to the defense that would help McCoy prepare his case.

McCoy's attorneys, Joel Collins and Robert Goings, found surveillance video shot the night of the arrest outside Sharky's that the attorneys said show statements in the police reports don't match what the video shows.

The defense asked the city for records of police dispatch logs, personnel files on the officers and the Internal Affairs investigation conducted by the police department, from the night McCoy and his friend, Allen Keith McAllister, were arrested outside Sharky's on Harden Street in Five Points.

"We're entitled to have, under Brady against Maryland, the documents that we have requested because we believe we can corroborate our client's defense and show pattern of conduct, perhaps by what has been documented by the investigation conducted by the Internal Affairs office," Collins told the judge.

Holloway told the judge the police department had not provided her with all the dispatch logs from Oct. 17. Holloway objected to handing over the personnel files, citing her concern with releasing personal information contained within the files.

"What we want to see are reports in their personnel files that would show a pattern of abusive behavior, such as we have alleged that's occurred in this case," Collins said.

An Internal Affairs investigation into the accusations against the officers came after we aired the video on Feb. 4, nearly four months after the arrests. Holloway told the judge she has investigative reports on the officers Thursday, but "I don't see the Internal Affairs file in regards to this incident."

Holloway did not say what complaint the internal affairs investigation she had possession of addressed.

The city told the judge they would turn the Internal Affairs investigation report over to the defense, but would only do so if the judge issued a protective order that the defense could not disclose the reports to a member of the public.

"The defense asked for routine discovery materials and the city objected until the judge ordered it must be provided," Goings said after the hearing. "We were prepared to show the video of what happened and put the officers on the stand, but that must wait until another day," Goings said. Prosecutors did not argue the accuracy of the surveillance video, according to McCoy's attorneys.

The Oct. 17, 2009 arrests came after officers said they received a call from a bartender at Red Hot Tomatoes in Five Points about a man causing a disturbance. When police arrived, they found the man, McAllister more than 70 yards away in front of Sharky's.

Surveillance video shot outside Sharky's shows Columbia police officers James Heywood, Amanda Long and John Passmore walk up to McAlister and initiated an arrest.  As the officers approached, one officer immediately placed McAlister under arrest. But the three officers later wrote in a police report, "he needed to leave," and said they gave him "several chances to leave."

[Click here to read the original police report about the incident]

The officers reported that McAlister walked back to the bar twice before officers wrestled McAlister to the ground and arrested him.

Police went on to claim McAlister "snatched his arms away" and "started pushing the officers away," claims not shown on the video.

Attorneys claim McAlister was arrested for refusing to leave Red Hot Tomatoes, though the video shows he was already out of the bar when police arrived.

The video then shows McCoy walking up, questioning officers about the reasons for arresting his friend.
     
The officers wrote in their report that McCoy "grabbed an officer by the arm" and continued to intervene by "getting in [the reporting officer's] face." McCoy says he was simply asking the officers about McAlister's arrest details, bond hearing and Miranda rights.

In the video, officers shoved McCoy several times before placing him under arrest. The officers reported in detail that McCoy resisted arrest, allegations the video also disputes.

McCoy's suit claims he asked the officer why he himself was being arrested and Officer Passmore replied, "For asking questions." The suit said Passmore went on to say it was a crime to ask questions about McAlister's arrest.

In addition to his having his charges dropped, McCoy is also asking for compensation. He says he was traumatized by the ordeal that followed his arrest.

The officers didn't file the charges with the jail after the men were booked in, which caused them to miss two bond hearings and spend a night in jail. During that stay, McCoy witnessed his cellmate kill himself.

McCoy's cellmate had been booked on charges of assault and battery with intent to kill and driving under the influence, and was found hanged in his cell. Coroner Gary Watts ruled Olin Taylor's death a suicide.

McCoy's attorneys asked the judge to dismiss the charges Thursday. The judge decided to wait on that decision until the trial. A trial date is set for May.

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