Sergeant Kyle Nice, one of the Portland police officers accused of intimidating 33-year-old Richard Prentice in a holding cell three weeks ago, emailed the Mercury from his police bureau account last week to stick up for himself.
Prentice was arrested, cited with "advertising on the street," and thrown in a cell on June 14 for putting up an anti-cop poster on the federal courthouse—the posters, he says, were motivated by the in-custody death of James Chasse last fall, as well as his own alleged beating at the hands of North Portland officers last March.
"Wanted," read the poster, which had photographs of Nice, Transit Officer Christopher Humphreys, and Sheriff Deputy Brett Burton on it. "These scumbags killed an innocent man named Jim Chasse by beating him to death. They are still employed by the Portland Police Department."
But the email from Nice—whom Prentice has accused of taking part in intimidating him ["Thought Police," News, June 28]—was intended to point out another, more inflammatory poster, perhaps as a way to justify Prentice's detention.
"How come you didn't show Mr. Prentice's other poster?" Nice asked. "The one picturing the gun to the officer's head."
Above that image—an oversized pistol pointed at the head of what appears to be a motorcycle cop—are the words, "Revolutions don't happen by themselves. We need your help."
Prentice plans to sue for breach of his First and Fourth Amendment rights to free speech and against unreasonable seizure, alleging he was arrested and held for the content of his speech. His attorney, Benjamin Haile, believes that Nice's email supports Prentice's allegations.
"I think this new information will polarize the discussion significantly," says Haile. "It will divide people who care about the protections to free speech and those who can be distracted by attacks on Rich's character, giving fuel for indignation on both sides."
"I think for anyone to imply that this somehow justifies what was done to Richard Prentice, it's just classic 'blaming the victim,'" he added.
Plus, Prentice adds that Nice would never have seen the second poster if he had not been unreasonably arrested in the first place, because it was hidden in his bag.
The police bureau has still not furnished the Mercury with a copy of the arrest report relating to the case, despite having been given two weeks to do so.
Nice did not respond to the Mercury's requests for a follow-up conversation.
Nice, Humphreys, and Burton are still accused in a federal lawsuit of "extreme, excessive, brutal, and deadly physical force" relating to Chasse's controversial death in custody last September.