On Wednesday, Seattle's King County decided not to file felony charges against Shandy Cobane, the Seattle Police Department vet caught on camera earlier this year shouting racial profanities and beating up a Latino man.
On April 17 Cobane detained a man named Martin Monetti and two friends after receiving a call about a nearby robbery. Cobane's caught on video kicking Monetti in the face, and shouts at him, "I'll beat the fucking Mexican piss out of you, homey! You feel me?" Another officer named Mary Woollum--who had her own history of brutality--stomped on Monetti's back. King County prosecuting attorney Dan Satterberg concluded that the incident did not merit charges under Washington state's hate crime laws.
In May Cobane's hateful shouts bounced around the country when the video was circulated online as yet more evidence of the racial harassment so often associated with police officers. The video was not posted online until weeks after the initial incident--during which Cobane was just another anonymous police officer. By the time it went public Cobane came forward with a tearful apology.
King County prosecuting attorney Dan Satterberg wrote in his decision:
Cobane will not be charged with the felony crime of malicious harassment because prosecutors have found that he did not intentionally target or assault a person because of their race or national origin, as required under the State's hate crime statute.
Satterberg explained that in order to charge Cobane with a hate crime, the 15-year Seattle Police Department veteran would have had to "maliciously and intentionally target[ed] Mr. Monetti due to his ethnicity." Cobane merely "lawfully detained Mr. Monetti and the other two men because they had a reasonable belief that the men were involved in two armed robberies." The prosecutor acknowledged that Cobane detained Monetti and his companions because they fit a description of Latino males who had been involved in a robbery nearby.
Satterberg also defended Cobane's verbal and physical abuse. Cobane's actions toward Monetti were not racially motivated, the prosecutor wrote, because he did not also beat up the two Latino men Monetti was with. The prosecutor also wrote that police have the right to use physical force "beyond what an ordinary citizen would be allowed to use so long as the force is reasonable in the performance of their duties."
Local groups are not happy about the double standard. "If Cobane were not an officer, he'd be charged with a hate crime right now," Seattle King County NAACP President James Bible told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "This is institutional power at its worst."
The P-I got ahold of King County prosecuting attorney Dan Satterberg's statement. Read it in its entirety here. Cobane could still possible misdemeanor charges from the city's attorney and internal sanctions if the Seattle Police Department's Office of Professional Accountability choose to discipline him.