Inmate Turned Legal Eagle: Harris v. Rosemeier Gains Momentum, Virginia Sheriff to Face Jury Trial
Written by: Sam Orlando
AUGUSTA COUNTY, VA - In a rare David versus Goliath-style victory, Marvin Harris, a pro se litigant and Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC) inmate, recently achieved an unexpected legal victory against the county's legal team in federal court. His remarkable feat of opposing the attorneys' motion to dismiss using words scribbled on prison notebook paper has captured national attention of inmate rights groups. Harris, not one to rest on his laurels, has now amended his complaint, providing a more extensive account of the events that led to his brutal lawsuit.
According to the complaint, filed in Harris v. Rosemeier, et al., Harris alleges that he was the victim of a brutal and racially charged assault by law enforcement officers from the Augusta County Sheriff's Department. This account, coupled with Harris's unique legal triumph, has brought the case of Harris v. Rosemeier to the fore.
In Harris's statement, he provides a detailed narrative of the events of October 08, 2020. He recounts being picked up by an old friend, to help her move furniture. While Harris was a passenger in Hartman's vehicle, they were pulled over for a speeding violation. Harris, on the phone at the time, declined to provide his name to the officers, reasoning that he was not the driver and had done nothing wrong.
According to the document, what unfolded next was a horrifying example of police brutality. Harris alleges that without warning or provocation, Officer Rosemeier, one of the officers on the scene, assaulted him through the vehicle's half-open window, launching a string of racial slurs at him. When Harris attempted to protect himself, both Rosemeier and another officer, Wells, reportedly discharged their tasers at him.
As the assault continued, Officer Hillard allegedly punched Harris in the face, then unbuckled his seatbelt, and violently removed him from the vehicle. Harris, helpless in handcuffs, claims he was repeatedly kicked in the face and mouth by Officer Hillard, tased again by Rosemeier and another officer, Taylor, who also reportedly held a knee to Harris's shoulder. This relentless violence rendered Harris unconscious, and when he came to, he alleges the officers were laughing and taking derogatory photos of him.
Upon his arrival at jail, Harris was refused entry and taken to the Augusta Health Emergency Room, where he was treated for a range of severe injuries, including a fractured nasal bone, a fracture of the right frontal process of the maxilla, several chipped teeth, and lacerations and bruising across his body.
Adding to these allegations of police misconduct, Harris claims that Sheriff Donald Smith, the head of the Augusta County Sheriff's Department, has neglected to take action against the officers involved, despite multiple complaints. Harris has called for accountability from Smith and his department, asserting they've failed to enforce necessary controls like body cameras due to potential incidents like his own.
Judge Jones in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia has stated he plans to set a jury trial date later this month. A trial in this matter would likely not occur until after the new year. This case raises unsettling questions about law enforcement conduct and the safeguarding of citizens' rights. With this recent victory in the federal court, Harris is demonstrating a compelling determination to seek justice. His plight serves as a stark reminder that all voices, no matter how marginalized, deserve to be heard and taken seriously in our justice system. As the case progresses, the nation will be watching closely, awaiting the outcome of this challenging legal battle.