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FBI, federal prosecutors investigating Euclid police officer seen beating motorist

Updated Jan 8; Posted Jan 8

By Eric Heisig, cleveland.com eheisig@cleveland.com

CLEVELAND, Ohio - The FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office are deciding whether to bring federal charges against a Euclid police officer seen in a widely-viewed video beating a motorist during a traffic stop.

FBI spokeswoman Vicki Anderson confirmed Tuesday that agents, along with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office, are looking into the conduct of officer Michael Amiott in August 2017.

A video of Amiott punching Hubbard led to protests and criticism of the inner-ring, east side suburb, where other instances of police use of force were highlighted. Amiott and the incident were heavily featured in the most recent season of the popular podcast "Serial."

The probe into Amiott's conduct began shortly after a video of the traffic stop went viral, though all indications previously were that county investigators were more interested in a potential case against the officer than the feds.

Federal prosecutors in Northeast Ohio have rarely brought criminal charges against police officers accused of using excessive force.

County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Ryan Miday also confirmed the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office's involvement. U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Mike Tobin declined comment.

Christopher McNeal, a lawyer who represents Hubbard and his girlfriend Yolimar Tirado in a lawsuit against Amiott, the city of Euclid and other officers, said Tuesday that Amiott's conduct was "very egregious and deserves to be reviewed by all of the investigatory and prosecuting agencies that have jurisdiction over his particular case.

"I am glad this matter is being seriously considered because police accountably is very important, not just for my client but the entire nation."

FBI agents have not interviewed either of McNeal's clients, though they were interviewed by the County Prosecutor's Office shortly after the incident.

James Climer, an attorney who represents Amiott in defending the lawsuit, said he was not involved in the criminal case but said he would ask his client if he had a criminal defense attorney.

Euclid Mayor Kirsten Holzheimer Gail fired Amiott in October 2017 but an arbitrator reinstated him a year later, ruling that the mayor did not have cause to fire him.

Amiott had been disciplined before for losing his temper, losing evidence and hitting a suspect with his gun, according to records in his personnel file. The Mentor Police Department allowed Amiott to resign in 2014 after he conducted a traffic stop without probable cause and lied about it, records show.

The U.S. Attorney's Office, whose main location is in Cleveland, have been loath to criminally charge officers following excessive force investigations.

Most notably, federal agents conducted an investigation into whether Cleveland officers kicked suspect Edward Henderson when he was on the ground following a chase. The incident was seen on footage captured from a police helicopter.

Then-County Prosecutor Bill Mason charged four officers with felonious assault, but dropped the charges when the feds took over the case. No officers were federally charged, as agents were unable to identify the ones shown on the video.

There have been instances where local federal grand juries issued charges, though.

Westlake police officer Robert Toth was charged in 2015 with punching, kicking and choking Teddy Abadie during an interrogation. A jury acquitted him in February 2016.

A grand jury in July also indicted former Put-in-Bay officer El'Shawn Wiliams on charges of using excessive force against a man in custody and then lying to try to cover it up. Williams has pleaded not guilty and his trial is set to begin May 7.

The Justice Department also investigated the city of Cleveland and found that officers too often used excessive force against suspects and residents. The city settled with the Justice Department in May 2015 and agreed to reforms.

Cleveland.com reporter Cory Shaffer contributed to this story.

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