A former McDonald's employee won nearly half a million dollars over an incident that occurred nearly a decade ago featuring a policeman lying and then coercing the employee into a false confession. For those keeping score, this means the score is now Regular People 1, Police Officers 5,685,382+. So, progress!
Albert Garcia, an 18-year-old McDonald's employee in 2005, was accused by a police officer named John Florio of seasoning Florio's burger with broken glass. After four hours of questioning by officers in a small, windowless room at the McDonald's, Garcia confessed. Seems like an open-and-shut case, right? After all, Garcia did confess.
Just one problem: the officer's story had more holes than a cheese grater and it was proven Garcia physically could not have put glass shards in the guy's burger. As a result, Garcia is now getting a well-justified payout to the tune of $437,000 from the city of New York.
The story fell apart pretty quickly when someone actually looked into it. Medical records from Florio's ER visit in the wake of the incident (which did actually happen) showed no symptoms of swallowing glass. Florio also claimed he told his family doctor he recovered glass in his stools — only the doctor testified that conversation never took place.
Then there's the big one: Garcia was half an hour late to work the day of the incident, so he wasn't even in the restaurant when Florio bought his meal. Somehow, inexplicably, this information never made it into the police report. I'm shocked. This is my shocked face.
It's important to note that a staggering number of false confessions wind up being coerced by police officers. Regardless of what police procedurals on the teevee have taught you, false confessions from innocent people are extremely common. Even then, they frequently stick despite their coerced nature — the only way out is to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, as Garcia did, that he could not have committed the crime.
Don't kid yourself: cops can still kill pretty much whoever they want (at least if the victim isn't white), they can violate civil rights and the basic tenets of the Constitution however they feel like, and thanks to a doctrine known as Civil Forfeiture,* they can straight-up steal from average citizens with absolutely no repercussions. It's good that they caught Florio in a flagrant lie, but he'll never face charges for this.
Happy Saturday, everybody.
* After hearing about Civil Forfeiture for the first time, I struggled to think of any law that could possibly be more ripe for corruption, and I've still come up empty. It's basically the "we're cops so we can take all your shit under the most bullshit justification we can come up with." I wish that was in any way hyperbole.
Image via AP.