Officer’s file to remain closed in Taser incident
Carbondale’s municipal judge on Monday declined to make public the personnel file of a police officer accused by a motorist of unnecessarily using a stun gun during a traffic stop.
Carbondale police officer Jose Munoz pulled over Steven Horn in early August after Horn allegedly ran a stop sign while helping with preparations for the town-sponsored Blues, Brews and Barbecue party on Main Street.
According to Munoz, Horn jumped from his pickup and started yelling at Munoz and was approaching the officer’s squad car threateningly. Munoz said he used his Taser stun gun out of fear for his own safety.
Horn said he was calmly approaching the squad car when Munoz became upset that Horn did not stay in the truck as ordered. Horn claims the officer struck and pushed him several times, acted belligerently and shot him six times with the Taser.
Judge John Collins, after conducting a closed-door hearing with the attorneys in the case Monday night, made no comment regarding what was discussed during the hearing. He ordered the lawyers not to comment, either. The hearing was “off the record” and also will not appear in any publicly available transcripts of the court proceedings, in accordance with state law, the judge said.
The hearing was believed to be about a request by Horn, through defense attorney Richard Dally, to open up Munoz’s personnel files, including “any medical and psychological evaluations and any records of any verbal or written complaints about Munoz” while he has worked as a Carbondale police officer. Prosecutor Sherry Caloia had argued against Dally’s motion, maintaining that opening Munoz’s file would violate his rights to confidentiality.
The judge had earlier denied several other motions by Dally, including requests to see the stun gun and handcuffs used in the case, and municipal documents on policies followed by Carbondale and the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team (of which Carbondale is a member) concerning the use of Tasers. The judge ordered the prosecution to turn over a variety of other documents, including any memos or notes that resulted from a meeting between Munoz, Horn and Police Chief Gene Schilling following the Taser incident.
At one point in the Monday hearing, after the closed-door session, Dally complained that he had not received a copy of a “Taser-use report” that he said was required when the device is used by a police officer. Although Caloia said she had turned over “everything that I know is in the file” on the case, the judge directed her to check again and to furnish Dally with the report if it exists, as part of the normal discovery process in criminal trials.
Horn is charged with resisting arrest, disobeying an officer and running a stop sign. The case will be heard in a daytime municipal jury trial on Feb. 23, rather than the customary nighttime trial before the judge.
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