Acting Atty. Gen. Peter Nickles
Acting Atty. Gen. Peter Nickles

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Earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan warned AG Peter Nickles: “You’re playing games with the wrong judge.” Sullivan was referring to the AG’s near endless stall tactics in the Pershing Park cases. These tactics include attempting to preventing depositions from being taken, and fighting the release of documents to the public. But what about Sullivan’s characterization that Nickles is playing games?

In an effort to answer that question, City Desk offers a play-by-play concerning the testimony of Det. Paul Hustler.

Last Friday, Det. Hustler was set to give a deposition in the case. The OAG lawyers were ready. The plaintiffs attorneys were ready. But at the last minute, Hustler decided he wanted his lawyer present and the depo was postponed.

Immediately, the OAG filed a motion asking the court to bar Hustler from testifying. In filings, they contended that Hustler’s deposition was unnecessary—that it would focus on old material, not newly produced documents.

Here’s where the games come in to play:

The day before, court records show Det. Hustler had met with OAG lawyers and briefed them on what he was going to say in his deposition. OAG lawyer Monique Pressley admitted in the court filing that she “knew the nature of the expected testimony.”

Pressley’s statement in the filing suggests she knew Hustler’s testimony was anything but old news. That, in fact, his testimony would be explosive. In an affidavit later submitted to the court, Hustler asserts that then-Chief Charles Ramsey ordered the mass arrests at Pershing Park. Hustler stated in his affidavit:

“As I walked closer, about five or six feet away from them, I heard Chief Ramsey say, ‘We’re going to lock them up and teach them a lesson.'”

In light of this, Pressley’s arguments asking to bar Hustler appear like she’s, well, playing games.

At the subsequent hearing, Nickles responded to Sullivan’s criticism by complaining that the plaintiffs attorneys had personalized the case, turning it into a personal attack on him. Both Nickles and Pressley also complained about the constant press coverage.

Yet today, Nickles filed another motion in court concerning Hustler. He made sure to e-mail the filing to the press.

Late this week, the plaintiffs had decided not depose Hustler and stick with his affidavit for the time being. In court documents, Nickles cried foul:

“The public manner in which plaintiffs filed the affidavit in the public record, with the invitation to the public to review the filing, shows that this entire issue was contrived—-not for the purpose of searching for the truth, but for the purpose of launching a media frenzy to which defendants would not be able to respond.”

Nickles now wants a deposition of Hustler to proceed. He then goes on to personally attack the detective. Here are some of Nickles’ attempts to score points:

*The AG notes in his filing that Hustler’s affidavit did not include a time and date for when Hustler witnessed Ramsey’s comments at Pershing Park. “It is impossible, based on the Affidavit alone, to determine whether the statements Detective Hustler claims to have heard can be reconciled into the chronology of events to which several dozen sworn witnesses have already testified,” Nickles writes.

One way Nickles could have cleared this up: He could have consulted the running resume. Unfortunately, the running resume is one piece of evidence that disappeared under the OAG’s watch.

*Nickles goes on to question Hustler’s motivations for his testimony. He mentions that Hustler had filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Chief Ramsey. The case was eventually dismissed. He also cites a deposition Hustler gave in which the detective speculates that Lanier was out to wreck his career.

Both points have little to do with the substance of Hustler’s detailed affidavit (linked above).

So is this just more games from the AG?

Plaintiffs lawyers are expected to file a response to Nickles tonight. We will post an update.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery