No Charges Against Champaign Officer Matt Rush
Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz says she won’t be filing criminal charges against Champaign police officer Matt Rush. Rush has been the subject of four excessive force lawsuits – three of them, to date, resulting in settlements.
In a letter released by Champaign Police, Rietz says she and her staff "did not find sufficient legal basis to proceed in criminal court." Reitz further explained her office's decision in documents and police dash cam videos released to the media, saying the evidence in this case would likely not meet the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt to file criminal charges.
Rietz says there were some problems with the complaints against Rush, including differing accounts of what occurred.
“Some of the videos are very grainy and dark, so it’s hard to see what happened," she said. "And so we have to look at – both the law, which gives officers the ability and the responsibility to use force, as well as the evidence that we have to suggest that force was used inappropriately.”
While no charges will be filed, Rietz says her review of Rush’s disciplinary history has led her to conclude that Rush is an unreliable witness and won’t be called to testify on behalf of the state in criminal proceedings. That significantly reduces Rush's ability to do his job.
“His internal disciplinary history shows a number of complaints regarding failure to document use of force, and dishonesty," Rietz said. "And so those issues cause us great concern about his credibility as a witness in our criminal cases.”
Rietz says she’s also very concerned about Rush’s judgement and decision making, especially when it comes to de-escalating situations. She says that while that doesn’t rise to the level of a criminal offense, it causes concern with regards with her office’s ability to vouch for his credibility.
The settlements approved by the city so far in cases against Rush total $320,000. In the fourth lawsuit filed last week, Precious Jackson contends she suffered a miscarriage as a result of Rush’s actions. But in a press release, Rietz said ‘those allegations are inconsistent with information provided in Jackson’s booking records at the time of her arrest.’
Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb fired Rush in 2014, but an arbitrator reinstated him to the job under the terms of a union contract. Rush has reportedly been on unpaid leave since February 2nd.
Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery released a statement Tuesday night, stating the group's disappointment in Rietz's decison not to file charges against Rush.
She said the group does agree with the state's attorney's comments about Rush's "judgment and decision-making with regard to with regard to his approach and contact with citizens in crisis, particularly those with mental health concerns."
Avery says Cobb's original decision to fire Rush should be upheld.
"We furthermore believe that his termination should not come at the expense of the taxpayers," she said. "We will continue to seek the implementation of a Champaign Citizens Review Board, the purchase and use of body cameras, and finally we will ask the newly appointed Racial Justice Task Force to review and make recommendations on the use of force policies, and the Arbitration process which takes the power away from the city officials to effectively discipline their employees."