Two South Carolina Police Officers Sentenced For Depriving Mentally Disabled Woman of Her Rights
Yesterday, federal Judge Bryan Harwell said that the bad actions of two officers ruined the good work of thousands of honest officers.
“This one incident can cause the public to lose respect and overshadow the good work, the hard work, done by thousands of officers every day,” Harwell said.
In October last year, Franklin Brown and Eric Walters pleaded guilty to deprivation of rights under color of law. The DOJ took the case from the state and the officers reached the plea deals through federal prosecutors.
It happened in April 2013 in Marion, South Carolina. Eric Walters was patrolling when he saw Melissa Davis walking out of the yard of a home for sale. He asked her what she was doing, thinking she might have broken into the home. He tased Melissa because she did not quickly respond. While on the ground, Walters ordered Melissa to put her hands behind her back, but he shocked her 4 more times with his taser before she could respond.
Franklin Brown responded to the scene, and saw Walters removing the taser probes from Melissa’s back. Walters had then determined that Melissa had not done anything wrong. However, Brown noticed that one of Melissa’s hands had slipped from her improperly applied handcuffs, and he used his taser on Melissa again. According to court documents, Melissa was not trying to fight or escape.
Prosecutors said that Brown shocked Melissa a total of three times, then offered to let her go if he could shoot her in the forehead with his Taser. Brown told the other officers at the scene he shot Melissa with his taser because he “did not want to touch that nasty bitch.” Brown’s statement is a part of his plea agreement.
Judge Harwell sentenced Franklin Brown to 18 months behind bars, and Eric Walters to a year and a day. Brown received a longer sentence because while mentally disabled Melissa Davis was handcuffed, Brown tased her.
Walters’ lawyer pleaded for mercy at the sentencing, saying that Walters was in poor health after several heart attacks he suffered before he was 39-years old. He asked that Walters be sentenced to 6 months in prison and 6 months of home detention. Prosecutors agreed with the federal sentencing guidelines, and the judge sentenced Walters to a year and a day in prison.
Walters apologized to Melissa, his family and the city of Marion. He said he has no job and had to tell his children, once so proud their dad was a police officer, that he did a bad thing and has to go to jail.
“That’s not me. That wasn’t me. I made one mistake. Now I am going to pay the ultimate price,” Walters said.
40-year old Melissa, through her guardian, has filed a civil suit seeking $1.9 million in damages. Melissa still suffers mental anguish from what happened to her and cries each time she looks in the mirror and sees the scar on her forehead.