4/4/14 I am sorry that this piece still requires an update. I have not been able to do the work required because I am busy finishing my book: I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography. I am not trying to avoid my intellectual obligation, just slow. JD
3/2014This essay needs an update. I will try to provide one soon. J.D.
Note: I indicate in-text and [in brackets] that some comments exist that answer my questions or factually contradict my impressions. Find them at the end of the text.
Several weeks ago, I remonstrated with Brandon Christensen, Editor of the libertarian blog Notes On Liberty (with which I am sometimes associated) for his credulousness. I reproached him for lacking criticality in connection with Notes’ publicity around the alleged case of a New Mexico citizen supposedly forced to undergo several anal procedures by police searching for illegal drugs. I pointed out among other things that the colonoscopy the victim was supposed to have undergone by force did not even make technical sense because to be useful, a colonoscopy requires 24 hours preparation. I had other objections to undermined the legitimacy of the story. I thought it was a typically absurd Internet rumor. It was easy to discount Brandon’s espousal of the story because he belongs to the Internet Generation which I think is subject to believing in outlandish conspiracy theories. They are the generation who had the talented and crazy movie director Oliver Stone for a babysitter. I also think that that generation – broadly defined – is eager to believe bad news, the liberals among them, but also others. (Have I written about this generational angle? I don’t quite remember.)
Below is a recent report from the conservative American Enterprise Institute about this whole affair. It links up to a companion article in US News and World Report (USNWR).
In November, I posted on CD about an investigation by Albuquerque TV station KOB Eyewitness News 4 of several police officers and emergency room doctors in Southern New Mexico, who violated the rights and body of an innocent victim of America’s cruel, expensive and failing War on Drugs Innocent Americas Suspected of Possessing Intoxicants Not Approved by the Government. Law enforcement officers of the city of Deming and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office, and several doctors at the Gila Regional Medical Center, engaged in a series of unbelievably repulsive and disgusting actions against 63-year old New Mexico man David Eckert, who was wrongly accused of possessing illegal drugs.
In a futile attempt on January 2, 2013 to find drugs inside his body, police and doctors committed medical anal rape on Eckert six times over a 12-hour period, which included two forced digital rectal probings, three forced enemas, and finally a forced colonoscopy. Result? No drugs. The Gila Regional Medical Center, which performed the anal rape on Mr. Eckert, then billed him thousands of dollars for its “services” and persistently attempted to collect payment from Mr. Eckert.
KOB Eyewitness News 4 is now reporting that Hidalgo County and the City of Deming have settled a federal lawsuit filed by Mr. Eckert in US District Court last November for $1.6 million. According to a public records request filed by the TV station, Hidalgo County will pay Eckert $650,000 and the City of Deming will pay him $950,000. There is no resolution yet with the two medical doctors who performed the anal rape, the Gila Regional Medical Center where the rape occurred, or the assistant district attorney Daniel Dougherty, who authorized the search warrant that led to Eckert’s anal rape.
US News and World Report is also reporting on the $1.6 million settlement here.
Thanks to KOB Eyewitness New 4 for bringing the case to the public’s attention, it’s done a great service helping expose a very disturbing, but yet perfect example of why it’s time to end America’s cruel and immoral War on Drugs. And it would serve justice well if David Eckert receives additional, large financial settlements from the hospital, the medical doctors, and the district attorney. (source)”
This is a story right out of a bad horror movie. Or, it’s out of another century. Or, yet again, and more relevantly, this is reminiscent of the first years of Nazism, when the German people were getting used to atrocities until they finally became common-place. (The latter is all fresh in my mind because I am reading William Shirer’s detailed, and thorough Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.)
I respect the American Enterprise Institute (but I don’t know the writer, in this case, Mark Perry). I also think of the US News and World Report as one of the more trustworthy members of the traditional media. (I realize this a little like saying, “the tallest dwarf,” except that there are some members of the print press that richly deserve trust, the Wall Street Journal, for one, Vanity Fair, for another.) Nevertheless, I can’t shake my sense of disbelief. Many things in the report just don’t add up. Here are some; here is why.
Perry’s op-ed article article leaves me with several pressing and necessary questions unanswered:
Why? How was the victim selected? He does not have a Spanish surname. Nothing I read suggests that he is black; his name certainly does not. He could be a native American but I think the USNWR would have covered its butt from liberals criticism by mentioning the fact in the first or second line of its article if he were.
Are the local police profiling white senior citizens?
Or, do the local police test for drugs every person who rolls through a stop sign? Anyone who turns without signaling? (That would be 60% or 70% of all drivers in Santa Cruz where I live. This turn without signaling pertains to another allegation of anal rape about the same police, in the same area.) The USNWR report of a defective drug searching dog that should have been retired long ago being responsible for the mishap comes in the middle to the story. It does not answer my simple questions. Do the local police perhaps have a systematic drug search plan where they have their tired confused old dog sniff every twentieth minor traffic offender? [See link in co first comment.]
And I don’t know anything about New Mexico law so, I ask: Wouldn’t subjecting a citizen to a dog search require an application of the doctrine of probable cause? If the answer is “yes,” what was the probable cause in this case? Shouldn’t any press article report it? If there was no probably cause, shouldn’t any press article report it? And if no probable cause is necessary, shouldn’ t the press report it for the benefit of faraway readers?
And then, Perry reports:
“the assistant district attorney Daniel Dougherty, who authorized the search warrant that led to Eckert’s anal rape.” (American Enterprise Institute)
It’s news to me that district attorneys can issue warrants. I thought they could only seek warrants from a judge. Am I wrong? [See comment.]
But US News and World reports otherwise:
“A judge granted police a search warrant authorizing a probe ‘up to and including [Eckert’s] anal cavity.'”
So, it seems to have been a judge issuing a warrant, in fact, as one would expect, not an assistant district attorney. Mark Perry, writing for the American Enterprise Institute, does not get this basic fact right although it simply depends on common knowledge, on the kind of knowledge that comes from watching good crime serials on TV. This negligence or this ignorance undermines my confidence in his reporting, of course.
Why would a judge authorize an anal cavity search (which is rape)? What pressing argument was presented, aside from the dog’s erroneous signaling? Is there was no other ground, I want to know more about it. If judicial rape has really become that routine, that fact deserves an in-depth inquiry. I am waiting.
And, incidentally, I am curious to find out what happened to the confused drug dog. Was it at least retired or are the mad cops still using it, and if the answer is “yes,” why?
The US News and World Report continues: “The warrant’s limits allegedly were exceeded by the colonoscopy and it’s unclear why that procedure was necessary after enemas and X-rays did not reveal hidden drugs. ”
I am more than puzzled, as I have asserted repeatedly. I can easily imagine that the cops involved were morons and dribs, moreover poisoned by that worst of legal drugs, adrenalin*. But wouldn’t the doctors allegedly performing a colonoscopy on an unwilling person tell the cops that it was useless in their search for drugs? It was useless because it could not add any information after digital probing, after three enemas, after X-rays (as the story in USNWR reported). Even if that were not the case, everyone of the millions of Americans who have had a medically recommended colonoscopy knows that it requires at least 24 hours of prior fasting to be useful. Why would the doctor not escape pressure to perform the procedure by divulging this simple, verifiable technical information? The implication here is that there was no pressure, almost that the doctors were eager.
More about the doctors: Irrespective of whether or not there were actually illegal drugs in the victim’s body, irrespective of how convinced there were that there were, what would compel them to violate so grossly their Hypocratic Oath. It says right at the beginning, “First, do no harm.” Moreover, everyone who undergoes a colonoscopy for medical reasons is asked to sign a document admitting to knowing that the procedure entails some serious risks to health. And everyone knows that any sort of anesthesia at all is potentially dangerous to the life of those to which it is administered. Surely, the doctors knew all this as well. Why would they take all these risks?
Furthermore, are there really doctors who are so opposed to illegal drugs that they would take such huge career risks of their own initiative? I ask because the medical corps is shining through its absence in the relevant public debates about drugs, drug use and the so-called “War on Drugs.” (Maybe, it’s just me; maybe the medical profession is vociferous on the subject but I did not notice. Please, correct me.)
Weren’t the police-compliant doctors in afraid that they would be thrown out of the medical profession by their own peers for performing a dangerous, invasive medical procedure without medical reason and without patient’s consent?
Even if professional organizations failed to act against such grievous behavior, wouldn’t the true story of a rape of a patient pursue the doctors for the rest of their medical careers?
There is yet a second storey, or level, to the issue of professional reputation. I keep hearing – without trying – doctors bitching about malpractice suits and the cost of protecting themselves against them. I am told that some medical specialties are almost empty because of that issue. (Obstetrics, comes to mind.) Were not the doctors involved fearful that they would never be able to obtain malpractice insurance in the rest of their professional lives, or their employing organizations. Were they both looking forward to a career exclusively limited to prison practice (where malpractice suits are uncommon, though not absent)?
If all this really happened as told in both sources, something is missing from the story, something about the doctors’ motives. What their motives? Are they perchance illegal aliens? Are they or were they under suspicion themselves? I ask because there must be a great story there, almost Pulitzer price material. What means of pressure did the two cops have on the doctors? Without such means pressure, that centrally important part of the story is incomprehensible to me.
And, why would the original source, a local radio station, and the USNWR, and the American Enterprise Institute not publish the names of the doctors allegedly involved? Isn’t it common practice to just say, “alleged perpetrator” to cover one’s a..? Are all three sources, the USNWR, the American Enterprise Institute, and the local radio station that first aired the story that afraid of a libel lawsuit because – just like me – they have basic doubts about the story? (That’s although truth is almost always a sufficient defense against libel suits.)
In addition, would their fears be so great as to prevent them from doing a normal press public service at least by making it possible for ordinary people to stay clear of the doctors supposedly involved?
I cannot help but notice that from a narrow journalistic viewpoint the story is a god-sent, a once in a lifetime scoop. It’s difficult to understand why any press organ local or national (such as the USNWR) would fail to devote the resources to explore answers to my obvious questions. It’s difficult to imagine that a young upstart reporter would not investigate further on his/her own time. Perhaps it will yet happen. If it does not, silence will be like a finger of accusation.
There is worse.
Thus far, I have followed the lead of the to published pieces of the story by focusing on likely civil consequences, specifically, to the event. Note that the large (not large enough) money settlement with the city and county where the alleged atrocity took place can probably only serve the purpose of avoiding a civil suits against the same city and county. But, it seems to me that when it comes to violent crimes – of which rape is an instance – such as murder, prosecution is not a the discretion of the victim. We are not, in the United States, living under Sharia where the payment of a large amount of money can, if accepted by the victim or his family, erase the crime. Under Western concepts of law, if you kill someone, for example, the state comes after you even if the sister, the mother and the widow of the victim beg the state to leave you unharmed. I assume the same principle goes for rape under New Mexico law. Here again, if my assumption is wrong, someone will correct me, I am pretty sure.
I need to return to the alleged colonoscopy performed on the victim against his will. If I am right in my understanding that there was not conceivable technical purpose for the procedure, that it could not uncover any evidence not already uncovered by the other forms of body examinations the victim underwent, then, a strong presumptions exists to the effect that it was purely and simply torture. This in turn seems to make prosecution inevitable. And surely, if the doctors did not know this, the policemen would have. They would have done what they were said to have done at the risk of ending up in jail and there, probably favorite rape targets of the local worthies.
Now, I understand that the real presumption underlying the libertarian telling of the story is that of police impunity via immunity from prosecution. And, surely, it ‘s not difficult to find on the Internet true outrageous instances of such impunity. Still, it remains a gamble; instances to not aggregate into an assurance of impunity. Even if the probability of being caught is low, the severity of the consequences would make one hesitate
Furthermore, even if one posits a scandalous and obstinate complicity of local prosecutors with police abuse, there remains the risk of federal intervention. In this case, the victim alleges violation of his constitutional rights. That’s probably enough to induce Federal Prosecutor and FBI attention.
Any prosecution, be it by local authorities or by the federal government brings with it the risk of jury fury. Surely, I am not the only one who, if I were on the relevant jury and I believed that half the story is true, would do my best to send away for a long time the two cops and the two doctors, at least. The alternative would be for the alleged perps to opt for a judge trial, an extreme form of gamble.
It’s incomprehensible to me that neither of the reports cited above engage in the same bit of judicial speculation. Why would they not say at least, “Wait for the criminal repercussions,” unless there are serious reservations about some parts of the story as told?
What do I think, at this point?
Well, the implicit endorsement of the story by a good member of the general press did a lot to make the story more credible to me than it had appeared at first. The implicit further endorsement by a respected conservative organization, The American Enterprise Institute, added again to the credibility of the story. This is true although the Institute’s writer lapsed badly in the simple matter of which official authorizes warrants, an impressive display of ignorance, in my book. The fact that both reports give fairly good details about a monetary settlement between victim and city and county adds again to credibility because if one were motivated enough, one could search the records of the US District Court for trace that there has, in fact, been a settlement.
Adding to my puzzlement is an attitude running between the lines of the Institute’s story : “innocent victim,” “wrongly accused of possessing illegal drugs,” “futile attempt.” The implication seems to be: “They did not even find any drugs.” (This is not a quote from anyone; it’s my attempt at summarizing.) Why say any of this? Is it the case that the catalogue of horrors allegedly inflicted on the victim would have been justified had ten vials of heroin been ultimately found in his large intestine? Is the general idea, here that gross torture is a little bit OK to chase down illegal drugs? How could this implicit message be expressed by a conservative of libertarian tendency such as the American Enterprise Institute and a writer who claims to be combating the War on Drugs ? Why would mainstream libertarians let this pass without commenting? Would opposition to the criminal, wasteful, liberticide War on Drugs be less legitimate if it were found that the story of interest here is false, largely false, or even partly false?
This story and the non-inquisitive, passive way it was treated by USNWR, by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, and by several libertarian bloggers remind me of the miracles of Jesus. They were not really necessary for an understanding of Jesus’ elevated moral and limpid message: “Love your neighbor.” But his followers could not resist temptation after his passing: a few lepers with suddenly good skin, a dead man walking, feeding thousands with a handful of dinner rolls, and better even, water turning into wine, could only help persuade a few more of the recalcitrant and deepen the commitment of some of the lukewarm. Except, it did not really work that way. Every miracle story caused reasonable people, rational people, to drop out, lost them forever to the great cause of Christianity.
Government is evil even when it does not commit gross atrocities (against either the innocent or the guilty). You couldn’t do better than atrocities involving the homosexual rape of heterosexual men if you wanted to create irrational hatred of government (as opposed to rational, clear -headed diffidence). I believe the story as told right now is just too good to be true.
What I have learned in this pass on the topic is not nearly enough to dissipate my skepticism, as I say above in some detail. The reports motivate me to pay more attention. They make this unbelievable story more believable. And yes, of course, I run the risk of being shown completely wrong in the end. I believe that the fear of being wrong should be taken into consideration but that it should not entirely dictate behavior, that it should not even come close to doing so.
For anyone who is curious a couple of things about me: First, I have denounced the War on Drugs for years, at least for twenty years. I don’t do much about it because I feel overwhelmed, like many others. And, currently, I use no illegal drugs, have not for a long time. Second, my skepticism does not spring – paradoxically – from naivety. I believe in the most concrete way in the existence of evil.
* This is not a gratuitous insult against New Mexico law enforcement officers. Many of us saw on television recently a member of the New Mexico State Police fire his pistol repeatedly at a car he knew contained only a woman and several children. The female driver had done nothing but flee. She did not brandish a weapon. The cop was fired within the week, by the way.
PS I believe that at no point in this essay to I make any comments about any sexual practice taking place between consenting adults.