Continuance issued on case of abuse in Champaign jail

By Sky Opila

A continuance was issued Friday afternoon on a plea for a case involving Champaign County Sheriff’s Department’s Sgt. William Alan Myers.

Myers allegedly attacked inmates at the Champaign County Jail with a Taser and is currently being prosecuted on charges of aggravated battery, disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice for allegedly falsifying incident reports.

“The case is not ready to be resolved,” said Tony Novak, Myers’ lawyer. Novak refused to comment further on the case.

According to reports from witnesses, Ray Hsieh, a 31-year-old man who was in the jail for stealing a vehicle, was involved in an argument with another inmate that led to him being sprayed with pepper spray and placed in a restraining chair.

While in the chair, Myers, a 14-year veteran of the Champaign County Jail, allegedly placed a “spit hood,” designed to keep offenders from spitting on officers, on Hsieh, ordered the other officers to exit the room and Tased Hsieh four times, with several minutes between each shock.

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The officers that were asked to leave the room during the Hsieh incident later decided to report the abuse that had been dealt by Myers. The incident with Hsieh is one of at least four reported incidents of Myers using excessive force against detainees.

Before the plea bargain was supposed to take place at the Champaign County Courthouse, the Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice held a press conference to address their concerns about the case and to ask the county for a ban on Tasers.

While members from the group stood behind him in support holding signs questioning the use of Tasers in Champaign County, Michael Rich, 23, talked about his encounter with Myers in November 2004.

According to a police report provided to The Daily Illini by the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, Urbana police said Rich was intoxicated and re-entered the Canopy Club, 708 S. Goodwin Ave., after being asked to leave. The report noted that Rich was verbally abusive but never engaged in physical abuse.

However, a report filed by Myers just hours later stated that Rich showed up to the jail bleeding from his mouth area from an altercation prior to his admittance to the jail.

Speaking from a prepared statement, Rich told the small crowd at the courthouse about his experiences.

“It describes how I had my wrists and ankles handcuffed to a chair, a bag thrown over my head, and the unnecessary use of a Taser and the merciless beating I suffered by Sgt. Myers and those under his supervision,” Rich said, describing the complaint he filed with the Sheriff’s Department in May 2005. “What my complaint doesn’t describe is the nearly two years of my life that I lost fighting unjust charges of aggravated battery of a police officer.”

Rich said the charges of aggravated battery were brought against him for trying to defend himself from Myers’ attacks.

Aaron Ammons, co-founder of the Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice, said that the case is a great injustice because Myers may have entered a plea bargain that will allow his crime to be expunged if he keeps a clean record for two years.

“There (are) witnesses and evidence to support these allegations,” Ammons said. “Yet we fully expect that Sgt. Myers will face absolutely no charges for torturing these citizens.”

The practice of Tasing has come into recent scrutiny after a video surfaced on

YouTube.com that showed UCLA police officers repeatedly Tasing a student in one of the university’s libraries.

The Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice stopped the purchase of $30,000 worth of Tasers requested by the Champaign Police Department in 2004. A study cited in the release said that 64 percent of those Tased in Champaign County last year were African-American.

In light of the pending case with Myers, Ammons and the Champaign-Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice are calling for a complete ban on Tasers in Champaign County.

Ammons said they want the Tasers banned completely until proper guidelines and restrictions for the use of the non-lethal weapon can be established.

“There would have to be particular situations, that we have agreed and mandated and that are policy, that would cause for a Taser to be brought to the scene and administered if necessary,” Ammons said. “At this point we are asking for a complete ban because there is no structure and no policy as to how (Tasers) are used.”