PROBABLE CAUSE: Did it exist in arrest of Joe Thompson by LRPD? A federal case from Saline County offers guidance.

  • PROBABLE CAUSE: Did it exist in arrest of Joe Thompson by LRPD? A federal case from Saline County offers guidance.

Good fortune treated me yesterday to a repeat showing of a documentary (produced in part by my wife) on the life and jurisprudence of federal Judge G. Thomas Eisele.

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One episode caused me to slap my forehead. It was his remarkable 89-page opinion (written near his 89th birthday) on behalf of Hispanic plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the Alexander police department for racial profiling. The judge found the complaint meritorious and plaintffs won financial damages.

What caused me to sit up in the review of his rulings was his finding against the police for the arrest of Danny Villanueva in 2007. An officer called him out of his home, without probable cause, and then arrested him in part because he had beer on his breath. Which Villanueva indeed did, having consumed a six-pack or so legally in the comfort of his home. Part of his alleged offense also was that he didn’t produce an ID fast enough to suit the cop.

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I think you know where I’m going.

The Alexander police paid a financial price for an arrest made without probable cause. The judge also said the front yard of Villanueva’s home didn’t constitute a public place. Did they have any more cause than the Little Rock police had in the arrest of Surgeon General Joe Thompson, called to his door in Hillcrest for cop investigation of the non-crime of pissing off a security guard for billionaire Warren Stephens? Thompson had questioned the private dick’s presence at Thompson’s curb. Thompson, too, was said by the rentacop to have the odor of alcohol about him. Another non-crime. He did not identify himself fast enough, the sworn officers said.

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Villanueva won a directed acquittal verdict on his disorderly conduct charge and then became a successful plaintiff in a civil lawsuit. Just saying.

Wrote Eisele:

The experience made Villanueva feel ashamed. It also made him feel like a criminal.

Thompson’s case isn’t a racial bias case, but some constitutional and legal issues in the Villanueva arrest bear a resemblance to Thompson’s case. Wrote Eisele:

The Court holds that Villanueva did not appear in a public place when he came outside his home at Leath’s request and stood in his driveway [Thompson was on his doorstep].

The judge said the officer didn’t have ground to arrest Villanueva for either public intoxication or disorderly conduct. To quote him on the latter:

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