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Suit over fight between Amtrak cop and Amtrak worker at South Station cleared for trial

An Amtrak police officer had probable cause to arrest an Amtrak worker at South Station in an argument turned shoving match over whether a woman with young children could board a train early, but the worker has the right to try to convince a jury the cop used excessive force once the worker was down on the ground and being cuffed, a federal judge ruled today.

US District Court Judge Richard Stearns dismissed parts of former Amtrak worker Hasan Abdul-Hasib's suit against Amtrak police officer Colin Smith and Amtrak, ruling that Abdul-Hasib could not argue he was subject to false arrest and imprisonment because he shoved Smith in the 2016 incident and that's enough to warrant an arrest for assault and battery on a police officer - even if the charge, in Boston Municipal Court, was eventually dismissed.

But Stearns rejected a request by Smith and Amtrak to throw the entire suit out:

In the context of this case, it has long been clear that there is no justification for the use of disproportionate force by police in the course of making a routine arrest. That a genuine dispute of fact exists over the amount of force used by Officer Smith to restrain Abdul-Hasib once he was pinned to the ground is enough to [warrant a trial].

At issue is what happened on May 12, 2016, when Abdul-Hasib spotted the officer walking a woman and her two young children towards a door on an Amtrak train so they could board early, even though the train's conductor had not yet cleared the train for passenger boarding. According to a summary written by Stearns:

Abdul-Hasib, an Amtrak gateman, deemed the gesture unsafe and sought to intercede. A heated exchange ensued with Abdul-Hasib insisting that he would not give Smith permission to board anyone at that time. Smith ordered Abdul-Hasib to return to his post. Abdul-Hasib responded by threatening to have Smith fired. A shoving match followed, although Smith and Abdul-Hasib disagree about who first touched the other. Abdul-Hasib admits that during the shoving match he "contacted Smith in self-defense."

When Smith again ordered Abdul-Hasib onto the train, matters escalated. Smith then decided to arrest Abdul-Hasib for disorderly conduct. He took Abdul-Hasib to the ground and got on top of him, informing him that he was under arrest. Abdul-Hasib complained loudly of pain to his hand and knee resisted being placed in handcuffs. Abdul-Hasib submitted to the arrest only after a female Amtrak officer came on the scene to assist. In response to Abdul-Hasib’s complaints, Smith called emergency personnel who took Abdul-Hasib to Massachusetts General Hospital for evaluation. The treating physician observed no serious injuries but noted Abdul-Hasib’s subjective complaints of pain. After a disciplinary hearing, Amtrak later terminated Abdul-Hasib.

Stearns wrote that Abdul-Hasib's admission that he shoved Smith, even in what he thought was self defense, rules out a lawsuit on those and constitutional grounds because of both Massachusetts and federal court decisions:

Abdul-Hasib's argument that his use of force against Officer Smith was a justifiable exercise of self-defense has no legal significance. Massachusetts has abandoned the common-law rule that permitted forcible resistance to an arrest that a defendant sincerely believed to be unlawful. See Commonwealth v. Moreira, 388 Mass. 596, 601 (1983) ("[I]n the absence of excessive or unnecessary force by an arresting officer, a person may not use force to resist an arrest by one he knows or has good reason to believe is an authorized police officer, engaged in the performance of his duties, regardless of whether the arrest was unlawful in the circumstances.").

But at the same time, Stearns rejected Smith's and Amtrak's argument that the entire suit should be dismissed under the doctrine of "qualified immunity," that public employees are protected from suits when they are carrying out their job responsibilities. Stearns noted two legal decisions in which qualified immunity was upheld in "excessive force" cases, one cited specifically by Smith's lawyers, but said those decisions involved "deadly force" and so "have little relevance to this garden variety excessive force claim."

And so, the question becomes, Stearns continued, whether the force Smith used after he had Abdul-Hasib on the ground was warranted, especially given that Abdul-Hasib, a fellow Amtrak employee, was unlikely to be a flight risk and that the crimes Smith would charge him with were misdemeanors under state law and so not "particularly severe."

While it appears true that Abdul-Hasib was actively resisting arrest, a reasonable finder of fact might conclude that his resistance was a reaction to being placed in a physically painful position, rather than an attempt to escape from the arrest.

But that, the judge concluded, is a question for a jury.

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Comments

It appears that the Amtrak officer was doing a favor for someone by allowing the female and her children to board probably without paying. Abdul the nosy gateman shoves the officer and threatens to have him fired . The officers response is to arrest the unruly gateman for causing a scene and Abdul gets fired. South Station has dozens of cameras so the fight was probably caught on surveillance videos.I wonder if the Transit Police who are assigned to the station reported the incident or did they stand by and let the Amtrak workers slug it out.

"probably without paying".

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That's not how it works. The gate attendant checks the tickets to make sure only ticketed passengers board but doesn't collect them. That job is left to the conductor to handle once the train is in motion. Often they wait until after Back Bay so they only need to walk the train once and the fare is the same. The family would not have gotten away without paying by boarding early.

The officer was indeed helping the family, something which shouldn't be criticized. Given how Amtrak seems to yell at everyone, I'm not surprised the officer and the family didn't avoid the ire.

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Train policies and procedures have a lot to do with safety. It sounds like one was broken by the officer when to tried to let them board early "even though the train's conductor had not yet cleared the train for passenger boarding." It would be interesting to know why conductors clear trains for boarding.

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It has nothing to do with safety. The train sits empty to give the crew a chance to clean and get a rest. The officer knew this and most likely only let them on a few minutes before the official boarding announcement. The officer probably made the offer to the family when he saw it would give them a break to just be on the train. BTW, it wasn't that long ago that Amtrak didn't have platform agents and you could walk right on if you knew the correct train. The agents just cut down on people accidentally getting on the wrong train or without the correct ticket.

The platform agent was out of line to give the family and the cop a hard time. The Amtrak cop wouldn't have been allowing them to board if that would have been an actual problem. (Note: Doesn't excuse excessive force...)

"why conductors clear the train" - They need to:
1. Ensure that there is no sleeping passenger still in the train (round trip with no break)
2. Ensure that there is no unattended baggage in the train (could be a threat)
3. Might as well clean up mess left by the earlier passengers (passengers complain)

The worker was doing his job. Police officer was trying to be polite to the lady with kid.

In the absence of video, hard to say who started and what exactly happened. We are neither in the court during hearing to make a judgement on who is rite and who is not.

Having said that, the officer should have respected the worker's job and responsibilities. Respect is earned both ways.

This could have been handled a better way.

If lady was in desperate need:
1. Officer could have offered a chair at the door and let her in first escorting her and the kid.
2. Officer could have explained the need. The worker could have gained clearance for one car and could have let the lady in.

The need has to be real genuine to break Amtrek rules else it is injustice for everyone else who is travelling with/out kids and waiting in the long queues. May even create a mess at the station.

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda ... Hope we all learn from this and find a finer solution.

it is..... it is called deadheading. employees bring family members on the train at no cost. The Conductor is usually notified what seat the family is in so as to not charge. It is done on the Commuter Rail and on Amtrak.

My grandfather worked for the railroad for years. My uncle just retired. My whole family - those without rail passes - have been traveling this way forever.

Until the conductor, the person in charge of a train OKs the train for boarding either early, or for the normal boarding process NO ONE is allowed on. A police officer has no idea if the train is having a car added, as example, which could have indirectly caused a bump in the consist. There's many reasons to not allow people to board early without permission of the person in charge. A police officer has not the right to make what amounts to an operating decision no matter how well intended this may be.

Let the Amtrak workers do their jobs and F.O. Pigs.

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How mature of you. Losha!

F.O. Pigs.

Is that like F.A.O. Schwartz?

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welcome to our world of swine!

At this point, an Amtrak worker doing their job would be a more newsworthy event than this clustercuss!

Too bad the pleadings the ruling does not have a photo of all parties involved, in which case it would be obvious what happened. If I were a juror, I would want to know:

-Whether Smith was white knighting this woman
-Whether Abdul-Hasib is a loser used to getting pushed around and finally snapped when someone crushed his power trip (strong possibility)
-Age, height, musculature, jawline, charisma of the parties
-Whether Smith was a Chill Bro provoked to the point of being physical or whether he felt disrespected as a lowly Amtrak cop and decided to take action
-Whether someone said something like, “take it easy there, Chief, your job is not that important.”

are you blathering about?

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Enough with the off-the-deep-end speculations on posts like this.

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There is no sense in posting speculation where there are real lives involved. Besides, there is no need for half baked theories, details are readily available publicly.

I have so much respect for Universal Hub (as much as u-hub fan) and sincerely want my posts to make it better. I apologize for causing a problem here.

You are right, as always.

I personally don't believe this is sincere at all, but I hold out hope that you will exercise this kind of self-reflection before posting in the future.

"If the Amtrak crew is fighting in public, I am definitely going to skip the snack car on this trip..."

Smith beat the shit out of Abdul-Hasib because Abdul-Hasib wouldn't shut up and let him break the rules, but it's okay because he's a cop.

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And Abdul was terminated by Amtrak. Not an easy thing to do. Believe me, they thought long and hard about the terminated employee's 'race' and ethnicity.

I imagine the situation was not dissimilar to this
[some NSFW language]
https://clips.twitch.tv/DistinctBrightPanYee