The incident at Harborview Medical Center led to Nick Hogan’s dismissal from the Tukwila Police Department. He was later hired by the Snoqualmie Police Department despite a history of using excessive force.
A former Tukwila police officer indicted on a felony charge of pepper-spraying a patient who was handcuffed to a gurney at Harborview Medical Center pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Nick Hogan pleaded guilty to a single count of deprivation of rights under color of law, a misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $100,000 and a year of supervised release.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Alice Theiler, who accepted the plea, said Hogan will be sentencedJan. 27.
Hogan was indicted by a federal grand jury in May over the 2011 incident, which led to his dismissal a year later from the Tukwila Police Department, the final straw in a string of questionable use-of-force incidents, usually against people of color. Two such incidents resulted in civil-rights lawsuits that cost the city more than $425,000 in out-of-court settlements and fees.
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Tukwila had hired Hogan in 2009 after his application for police officer had been rejected by departments in Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma and Fife.
Hogan, 36, originally had been charged with a felony in the Harborview incident and faced up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted.
In pleading guilty, Hogan signed a restrictive plea agreement that effectively prevents him from ever working in law enforcement again. At the same time, it provides for consideration at sentence for taking responsibility for his crime.
The agreement also orders that he pay an as-yet undetermined amount of restitution to the victim, identified in court documents only by the initials M.S.
The agreement requires that Hogan resign his law-enforcement commission for at least 15 years, meaning he can no longer be a police officer, and he is barred from seeking work in the private-security field where Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Miyake said he might “have control or authority over someone else.” He also cannot hold a job where he has to carry a firearm.
The city of Snoqualmie hired Hogan in 2012, after he was fired by Tukwila.
After Hogan’s issues in Tukwila first came to light, Snoqualmie said Hogan was an exemplary officer and that the city was aware of his previous problems.
Then, in January, Hogan was suspended for 20 days for having an affair with another Snoqualmie officer’s wife.
That investigation prompted a letter, signed by 19 of the department’s 21 officers, disputing the city’s defense of Hogan and saying he was heavy-handed and abrasive with his fellow officers and citizens.
Snoqualmie fired Hogan in August. Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson, who had defended Hogan’s hiring, declined to comment about Wednesday’s plea, said City Attorney Bob Sterbank.
While working for Tukwila, Hogan was at the center of a string of incidents and controversies. Among them was the primary reason other departments had turned him away: his alleged involvement in the so-called “Straight Edge” movement, which emerged from the punk scene in the ’80s and whose adherents eschew drugs and alcohol and are contemptuous and sometimes violent toward those who use them.
Hogan has several Straight-Edge themed tattoos, according to court documents and Tukwila police internal-affairs files obtained by The Seattle Times.
Tukwila commanders also found a trophy binder in Hogan’s locker with copies of police reports detailing incidents in which he had used significant force.
Research by plaintiffs’ attorneys indicated Hogan had used force more often than any other officer on the Tukwila force and that, of 20 incidents in which Hogan used force capable of causing serious injuries, 19 of the individuals he targeted were ethnic minorities.
The Harborview incident occurred May 20, 2009, while Hogan was transporting a mouthy and uncooperative man wanted on a warrant to the hospital to be treated for a split lip suffered in a fight.
At the hospital, Hogan said he delivered three “knee strikes” to the handcuffed man’s head after he was slow to get out of the police cruiser, and then — once inside the emergency room — shoved and tackled him, sparking protests from hospital security officials.
The man was handcuffed to a gurney, where he taunted Hogan, who responded by spraying him in the face with pepper spray.
Hogan told his commander he never considered just moving away from M.S., and acknowledged “he triggered my threat response.”