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Illini basketball

Mistaken Identity Parade

The most important point of the following article: Darius Paul is not Arsenio Carter.

Arsenio P. Carter (sometimes Arsenio D. Carter) is a violent felon with a 2008 conviction for aggravated battery on a peace officer —  ILCS 720 5/12-4(b)(18) at the time, now recodified as 720 ILCS 5/12-3.05 in the Illinois Criminal Code of 2012.

Arsenio Carter is a 7-foot tall, 245 lb. black male. Darius Paul is a 6-foot-9 249 lb. black male.

Arsenio Carter is 26, born on February 1st, 1988. Darius Paul is 20,  born on April 8, 1994.

Arsenio Carter was walking just south of Springfield Avenue,  around 3 a.m., six blocks from Darius Paul’s apartment.

Darius Paul was walking, just south of Springfield Avenue, around 3 a.m., three blocks from Darius Paul’s apartment.

Here are Arsenio Carter and Darius Paul.On August 17th of last year, at 2:32 a.m., University of Illinois police captured surveillance video of four people, one of whom was an unusually tall black man, walking near Wright and Daniel Streets. About twelve minutes later, a man was attacked on Wright Street, just south of Springfield Avenue. It was the sixth attack in six days, three of which involved guns.

University of Illinois police published the surveillance video, and asked the public to help identify the four people. Eleven days later, police arrested Kenichi Townsend for his part in the August 17 attack, and obtained a warrant for the arrest of Arsenio Carter.

In January of this year, Champaign County Assistant State’s Attorney Lindsey Clark dismissed charges against Townsend, citing lack of evidence. In March of this year, Carter was arrested on the outstanding warrant. A week later, Clark dismissed charges against Carter, again citing lack of evidence.The surveillance camera got a good look at Carter and Townsend, but evidently the victim did not. Whether he failed to pick Carter from an identity parade, or told investigators that he never saw his assailants; the State’s Attorney’s office decided not to risk a verdict of not guilty. The Champaign County Circuit Clerk lists these cases as #13CF001416 and #13CF001417.

Dismissal of charges doesn’t mean the case is closed. It means the case is closed until police and prosecutors can obtain sufficient evidence to secure a conviction. You can infer that local police and the Champaign County State’s Attorney would both be extremely pleased to secure a conviction.  And quite simply, you should want one too. Arsenio Carter batters people.  He’s bad news.

You should infer that police have not given up on finding Carter. For example, they found him on Monday night, except that he turned out to be Darius Paul.

Here’s the sequence of events that we know: On Monday, April 21st, Carter’s co-defendant Kenichi Townsend was booked into the Champaign County jail at 11:11 p.m. Within four hours, University of Illinois police tackled Darius Paul, and arrested him for resisting arrest.If you’ve seen a police procedural drama on television, you can imagine the conversation Kenichi Townsend had with local police, prior to his booking. (To inflame The White Man’s sense of outrage, I’ll project an Ebonic speaking voice on Townsend. I don’t know whether it’s accurate, but it should bring additional page hits.)

Or perhaps Townsend did help the police with their inquiries. Perhaps he did offer information on Carter’s whereabouts and activities. Within three hours of Townsend’s booking, a man fitting Carter’s description was chased and tackled by police, in a spot that’s almost exactly halfway between the sites of Carter’s previous batteries.

On April 22nd, Kenichi Townsend  was charged with battery, and Darius Paul with resisting arrest and consumption of alcohol by a minor.

Were the police officers in the Darius Paul arrest the same people who arrested, investigated or interrogated Carter and Townsend? An email to university spokesperson Robin Kaler went unanswered. A FOIA for police reports concerning the Carter and Paul arrests should yield answers by the middle of next week.   But even if the individuals were not the same, it’s a safe assumption that all University of Illinois police officers are on high alert, knowing Arsenio Carter is at large.

State’s Attorney Julia Rietz did respond to my query about Townsend and Carter, and its implications for Darius Paul. She also clarified the circumstances of Paul’s “suspicious behavior.” The blue parenthetical is mine:

Citing Illinois Supreme Court Rule 3.8(f), Rietz declined to answer my question about the racial traits of Paul’s companion, or the “vulnerable (meaning drunk)” person they were following. In my experience, Darius Paul’s closest friend on the team is Mike LaTulip. It occurs to me that Darius could have been following a white person for the simple purpose that they were friends.

U of I cops might not have a roll call like Hill Street Blues, but it beggars belief to think that they weren’t on alert for a 7-foot black male working the closing time goldmine of vulnerable students meandering drunkenly between Campustown and Downtown bars.

 

I spoke to one friend who happens to be black/who happens to be a cop about the Darius Paul arrest. I didn’t even bother to ask if he wanted to speak on the record, and also advised him against it. He said he’s nervous about working with certain colleagues who don’t seem aware of/to care about the 4th Amendment. He doesn’t like it that his name appears in reports that involve their arrests.

This cop, like a lot of cops, was in the military before becoming a police officer. He expressed a reverence for the constitution, and particularly the 4th Amendment, before adding that it irritates him to know that some people don’t care about the liberties he served to protect.

The good news is that my friend is not alone in the law enforcement community.

I think  U of I police acted in the best interest of the community, and with the best intentions, when they tackled Darius Paul. After all, they thought he was Arsenio Carter, and Carter is dangerous.

By contrast, the only danger Darius Paul presents to this community is that he’s too mellow.  He’s soft-spoken. He exhibits symptoms of Joe Bertrand Disease. In other words, he’s so quiet and polite that you fear he might not be a relentless rebounder.

 

It’s my opinion that the claim of “suspicious behavior”  falls far short of satisfying the U.S. Supreme Court’s requirement of “reasonable suspicion” or  “specific and articulable facts” first articulated in Terry v. Ohio (1968). Constitutional criminal procedure is an ongoing science. Illinois courts have proved more skeptical of police methods than the U.S. Supreme Court. For example, Illinois v. Wardlow, in which Illinois courts found flight (that is, a suspect fleeing police) not grounds for “reasonable suspicion.”

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversing the Illinois courts’ decisions, Wardlow is not dispositive.  The right to run away from cops is not definitively outlined by case law. There are plenty of cases, and the recent ones favor the runner. The fact that Darius Paul was already in transit marks an important distinction between him and Sam Wardlow. And in case law, little details matter.

As the Rietz quote suggests, the U of I Police (via Roy Acree) opened the public discussion with a vague statement. If the particulars of the UIPD’s charge sheet attain a higher level of specificity; those reports will either be time-stamped or disputed. So far, there are at least two accounts of Darius Paul’s behavior, with differing reasoning for its “suspiciousness.”

If the police reports prove sufficiently consistent (don’t seem fudged, or improved after further reflection) they may pass the credibility test. That is, a trier of fact may regard that evidence as the honest impression of the police. But that characterization of Paul’s behavior will still amount to an extraordinarily Dred Scottish view of  “articulable suspicion,”  as a matter of law: Black people … seem to be following white people …. must be up to no good … must tackle …

 

You see how this works? If it had been Arsenio Carter, the police would be home and dry. Of course Carter’s behavior is suspicious. He’s Arsenio Carter! But because their captive turned out to be Darius Paul, they’re all wet.

We wish Darius didn’t feel the need to run, but we know why he did. It’s hard to question his judgment, even though Darius is a middle-class kid from the suburbs, the son of a veteran police officer and a certified  financial planner. After all, if he’d eluded the cops like his friend did, we’d never know he’d been out drinking, and the police would still be looking for Arsenio Carter, as in fact they are.

The Darius Paul Incident will, I predict, disappear. Even discarding Arsenio Carter from the available facts, and without any further evidence, there is no case. The United States Constitution and the courts that adjudicate its mission continue to require a higher standard of evidence than our baser selves seem to demand.

More interesting questions are whether Kenichi Townsend’s arrest will produce a conviction, whether he’s released on a motion by The People, whether local police find a charge that sticks to Arsenio Carter, and how all the involved facts will be cleansed and proffered by people on the payroll of the state, whose job contracts are defined by a responsibility to tell you the truth.