Police and Prosecutorial Immunity: A Relic of the Feudal Class System

Last week New York City Council voted to end police officers’ qualified immunity from lawsuits.  Last year Colorado and Connecticut passed laws ending police immunity, and states of New Mexico, Florida, and Maine are currently considering similar legislation. These efforts need to be expanded to all states and broadened to eliminate qualified immunity of police officers and absolute immunity of prosecutors. 

I personally experienced a 12 year legal nightmare that eventually resulted in the first prosecutor in Maine’s history to be disciplined through my bar complaint, and several police and prosecutors settling my Federal civil rights lawsuit against them.  It took years to fight through the maze of legal obstacles.  My final results were extremely rare as it is virtually impossible to overcome police and prosecutorial immunity in court.  

In Maine, state representative Jeffrey Evangelos introduced a new bill called An Act To Eliminate Qualified Immunity for Police Officers.  Some in law enforcement have voiced their opposition, arguing that it would impede their work unless they have immunity from lawsuits for misconduct.  It is a very cynical argument, suggesting that police can only do their job if they have immunity to violate people’s rights.  It is the same type of argument prosecutors make to defend their own absolute immunity.

Rather than help protect the efficacy and integrity of the justice system, qualified and absolute immunity allows state actors to engage in civil rights abuse with impunity.  I personally experienced police and prosecutors engage in egregious misconduct such as withholding crucial exculpatory evidence and fabricating false evidence and reports.  Police and prosecutors are almost never held accountable for their misconduct.  Even after all the unprecedented court findings in my case, no one even faced reprimand from their superiors, or from the attorney general. The actors in question were not even put on the Giglio list, which requires a record and disclosure to defense attorneys of any police officers with past credibility issues.

Often, prosecutors and police are not even held to legal and professional standards of conduct by officials who are responsible with their oversight.  Victims of misconduct are usually left with no recourse as most private attorneys will not undertake civil lawsuits against police or prosecutors because they are expensive and virtually impossible to win due to complex immunity protections involved.  And while many who are accused of crimes are only provided underpaid court appointed attorneys to defend them, police and prosecutors get exceptional private defense attorneys from reputable law firms to defend them at public’s expense.

In rare cases where police or prosecutors lose a civil lawsuit, the State or municipal insurance pays the judgement on their behalf.  Ending qualified and absolute immunity would force insurance companies and state and local governments to scrutinize police and prosecutors as a condition of insuring them.  Such forced scrutiny would help protect the public from abusive officials by preventing them from being insurable, hence make them un-hireable for positions of power.

The Federal Court’s Final Judgement in my lawsuit called my experience in Maine courts a living example of what Franz Kafka wrote about in his novel “The Trial”.  Similar Kafkaesque abuses will only continue so long as police and prosecutors are not held fully accountable for their misconduct.

The Founding Fathers fought the British crown in order to live free of its nobility’s privilege to abuse their power with full immunity.   It is un-American to continue a relic of that class system, derived directly from the British Common Law of king’s courts, which gave its law enforcers immunity for their misconduct.   We must all be equal under the law and be afforded the same protection of our inalienable Constitutional Rights.  Abolishing police and prosecutorial immunity would help protect people’s rights, and the integrity of the justice system.

© Vladek Filler

Maine’s Two Systems of Justice

Having seen many cases of women getting a pass for violent crimes against men, the details of a recent plea deal given to a female killer in Ellsworth, Maine dispels all illusions about equality and justice.

The case involved a woman named Savanah Lynn Smith who was charged with murdering her boyfriend’s 2 year old daughter, little Kloe Hawksley.

Former prosecutor Mary Kellett-Gray was the woman’s defense co-counsel and negotiated a plea deal with assistant attorney general Leanne Robbin.  The plea deal was accepted by judge Robert Murray.

It allowed Savannah Smith to avoid taking responsibility through a ‘no contest’ plea, also known as an Alford plea.  The sentence was to be “10 years” in prison. With credit for good behavior her attorney stated she will be free in 6 years, however with credit for her time in custody, Smith would likely be freed in just 5 years. 

The plea deal was given despite gruesome details and evidence in the case.

At sentencing, assistant attorney general Leanne Robbin stated that the child died from blunt force trauma to the torso; that “Kloe’s small intestine was severed from her stomach” and that “Kloe was a victim of repeated physical abuse.”

At the hearing, the child’s father, Tyler Hawksley said, “I cannot express enough the pain, anger, and frustration this has caused in these past few years.”

The child’s mother, Keeli Cousins, told the judge that “Every morning when I wake up I have to remind myself that in the end Kloe will no longer be abused. [We] will spend the rest of our lives trying to heal and I can only hope that somehow there is justice for Kloe”.

Defense attorney Mary Kellett advocated for the female killer, arguing that, “She is just 22 now […] she is definitely a probation candidate because of her youth but also her willingness to grow and learn and contribute to society.”

Savannah Smith addressed the court stating, “I’m sorry for the role I had in what happened. I can’t take back anything I did or didn’t do.”

Speaking to local media after the hearing, assistant attorney general Leanne Robbin said the killer “basically spared the family” from a trial and she will now have a chance to turn her life around.  “That’s what it’s all about” said AAG Robbin, “this is a game-changer for her, to accept responsibility for manslaughter.” 

Did Kloe’s parents feel “spared” from a criminal trial?  Do they believe 5 years in prison, no admission of responsibility, and helping the child killer turn her life around is what justice is “all about” in this case?

Kellett’s co-counsel, defense attorney Jeffrey Silverstein, told the media that “I know that the family had some misgivings, but these cases are always in the nature of compromise.”

At sentencing, judge Robert Murray stated, “Savannah Smith, you did recklessly cause the death of Kloe Hawksley”. 

Does that mean the investigation, the medical examiner’s report, and the murder charge were all just trumped up?  On one hand the prosecution presented medical examiner’s findings of Kloe’s repeated abuse and very violent cause of death.  On the other hand, they gave a plea deal and ignored their own evidence in order to call it a “recklessly caused” death by manslaughter.

Having followed many cases in Maine, such mental and legal gymnastics have only been performed for female perpetrators.  Whether it’s for murder, manslaughter, assault, or child molestation; female offenders in Maine routinely get outrageous plea deals, while men get punished by the system even for baseless accusations made by scorned ex-lovers.

Females in Maine also get special treatment by the media and domestic violence groups.  In little Kloe’s case, no one in the media dared call it a ‘domestic violence homicide’.   Nor did Maine domestic violence groups issue press releases, hold vigils, or voiced outrage about the plea deal.  Little Kloe’s family and friends were apparently left to fight for justice on their own.

Had Kloe’s killer been a man, the media would endlessly demonize him and create political outrage.  Domestic violence groups would hold vigils and issue press releases demanding even stricter new laws and even more funding for their organizations.

Maine’s progressively Orwellian domestic violence laws and “risk assessments” are apparently reserved only for men.  Savannah Smith had three young children of her own and was allowed to remain free for 1 ½ years before she was even arrested and charged with murdering little Kloe.

But this really is less about Savannah Smith and more about how such cases are handled.

The same justice system that pretends to give men a fair trial plays a different game of ‘pretend’ for female offenders.  Even when investigations of female crimes are actually conducted, the evidence often ends up being deemed as somehow insufficient for prosecution.  Female feelings, motives, and personal circumstances are given extraordinary weight to allow very special treatment using very different standards.  

In the case of little Kloe, the public was gaslighted to believe that the plea deal resulted in Smith taking full responsibility to be paid for with “10 years” in prison while “sparing the family from a trial”.  Even the prosecutor in the case was publicly advocating for this female as if she is the victim.  How many prosecutors publicly advocate for game changing plea deals to help male child killers turn their life around?

A system which abuses power for political and personal agendas is not a system that is concerned with truth or justice.  Like countless male victims in Maine, little Kloe Hawksley and her family are victims of Maine’s radical feminist justice system that has made female criminals a protected class.  

Those who have dealt with that corrupt and biased system, and its officers, understand that they are not concerned with truth or justice.

Nothing can illustrate it better than a judge, a prosecutor, and defense attorneys showing more concern for a female killer’s future than for a 2 year old child who she brutally killed.

© Vladek Filler

Are we living in a post truth and justice world?

My name is Vladek Filler.  In 2007 I was falsely accused by my then wife when I sought to end our marriage and gain custody of our children.  What followed were coached allegations, trumped up charges, prosecutions, false convictions, false imprisonment, appeals, my complete vindication, and a first of its kind Bar complaint and civil rights lawsuit.

I have appeared before Maine’s District Court, Superior Court, Supreme Court, Federal U.S. District Court, and the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.  At last count, some 22 judges were involved in this living nightmare which spanned 12 years.   My case has been the subject of national media reports, legal case studies, and legislative discussions.

When my ordeal began, I was faced with a different reality where evidence of the truth did not matter to those pursuing the prosecution; nor did it matter to those responsible with oversight.  I experienced officials ignoring the truth, violating laws and court orders, withholding and destroying exculpatory evidence, fabricating evidence, and openly lying to the court and jury with impunity. 

The Federal District Court in its 2019 final judgment equated my “horrendous experience with the criminal justice system in Maine to [the novel] THE TRIAL by Franz Kafka.

Despite court findings and my complaints to the attorney general, not a single Maine official was even fired for engaging in egregious misconduct in my case.

Repeatedly I urged State and Federal officials to fulfill their most basic oversight obligations.  But no amount of court findings or evidence of crimes ever resulted in law enforcement officials initiating any action or investigation–let alone treat a protected class of offenders the same way innocent people were being destroyed for mere baseless accusations.

My horrendous experience was not unique.   I was one of many men who was falsely accused and maliciously prosecuted in Maine courts.  Countless lives were ruined.

Having fought 12 years of battles on numerous legal fronts in my case, it is my opinion that for average Americans the reality today is only getting worse.  More people are finding themselves faced with a system that acts indifferently to truth and justice.  State and Federal officials are often ignoring basic Constitutional Rights for their own personal and political agendas.  It is clear the system is not going to hold itself to its own standards. 

For the sake of this nation, people must fight by all means necessary to hold all government officials accountable for misconduct.

© Vladek Filler