It Was “Just a Cut to the Head”: Woman Refuses Sobriety Test, Cop Slams Her Face into the Pavement

This woman decided not to do a field sobriety test, so a deputy saw that as a free pass to throw her face first onto the asphalt.

Bobbie L. Mael of Lockport, NY says in legal papers that her arms and legs were bruised, too, and she suffered a concussion when an Erie County Sheriff’s deputy threw her face first onto the Transit Road parking lot she had pulled into because she felt sick, reported Matthew Spina of Buffalo News.

The officer ordered her to get out of the car for the test, but she didn’t want to do it.

“A person is compelled to follow the lawful orders of a police officer,” Deputy Lee Richard said when Mael’s lawyers deposed him later.

Mael filed her lawsuit against Richard and Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard in 2013, months after the encounter in northern Erie County early Christmas morning 2012. But pictures of her bloody face were not released to the public until recently, when presented as evidence in her lawyer’s request for Richard’s personnel file.

In this extremely slow moving case, the lawyer, Jon Louis Wilson of Lockport, wants to know more about Richard’s training and whether he has been disciplined in the past for excessive force.

Richard admitted drivers can refuse to take a field sobriety test, but they can face penalties later for their refusal. Richard’s actions went far beyond what those penalties are.

Motorists who refuse a field sobriety test can face a Vehicle and Traffic Law violation that could lead to a $150 fine and up to 15 days in jail, said a spokesman for the State Department of Motor Vehicles. Drivers who refuse the blood-alcohol analysis that usually comes after a driving-while-intoxicated arrest can have their license revoked, the DMV said.

“I am not able to compel a person to perform field sobriety tests,” Richard said in the deposition. “I can ask them if they wish to perform them, and I can ask a person to step out of their vehicle. It is a lawful command by a police officer.”

Richard did not contend that Mael mouthed off to him or threatened him before he pulled her from the driver’s seat. He agreed she said she was sick and wanted to be left alone. But she tried to prevent him from opening the car door, he said, and she didn’t follow his various commands when she was outside the vehicle, according to Buffalo News.

Richard also commanded her to put her hands behind her back so she could be handcuffed.

How could Mael take a field sobriety test in handcuffs? Mael’s lawyer asked.

Richard claimed he wanted to cuff her to get her to calm down so she might then do the test that he was so anxious about administering.

Mael was 57 when Richard, who was 26, admitted he threw her to the ground hard enough to draw blood.

“From her sitting in the driver’s side seat to you pulling her out and getting her stood up against the left rear driver’s side door, there was another event that transpired, was there not?” asked Wilson, Mael’s lawyer.

“You’ll have to be more specific,” Richard said.

“Well, didn’t she do a face-plant on the pavement, didn’t you take her to the ground, to use you words from the criminal trial?”

“Yes,” the deputy answered.

“Was that intended to have a calming effect?”

“That was intended to control the individual,” Richard said.

Did Richard notice Mael was injured?

“Just a cut to the head,” he said.

“Just a cut?”

“That’s all I could observe.”

Mael was treated at Erie County Medical Center, where her injuries were photographed. She was eventually found guilty of driving while intoxicated, obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest, according to the Erie County District Attorney’s Office. She was sentenced to 120 days in jail, and her driving privileges were revoked for six months.

Even if she was intoxicated, it is not an excuse for police brutality. This behavior has to stop and abusive officers have to be held accountable for their actions.

(Article By Jeremiah Jones)