The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday denied Los Angeles Police Sgt. Stacey C. Koon's motion to remain free on bail while he appeals his conviction for violating Rodney G. King's civil rights.
The action paves the way for Koon to begin serving his prison sentence next week along with former Officer Laurence M. Powell, whose motion to remain free during his appeal was denied by the high court Monday.
Without explanation, the Supreme Court rejected Koon's contention that he posed no danger to the community if he remained free and that he would be vulnerable to attacks in prison.
The road to the denial took several turns.
During an Aug. 4 hearing where he sentenced the two men to 30 months in prison, U.S. Dist. Judge John G. Davies ruled that Koon and Powell were not entitled to bail on appeal because they had been convicted of a violent crime. He ordered them to report to prison Sept. 27. A federal appeals court upheld that ruling, saying there were no exceptional circumstances to warrant the officers getting bail.
The full U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Koon's and Powell's requests for a rehearing, but two judges dissented. On Sept. 27, Davies gave the officers a reprieve from prison until noon Oct. 12 so they could appeal to the Supreme Court on the bail issue. He said he had found Judge Stephen Reinhardt's dissent "eloquent and persuasive."
When Davies made that decision, Koon was checking in at the federal minimum-security prison in Dublin, Calif., 50 miles east of San Francisco. Powell had reported to the prison a day earlier.
In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Koon's lawyers argued that violation of civil rights does not always mean that a violent crime has been committed, and that Koon constituted no flight risk.
Additionally, the attorneys contended that Koon and Powell were particularly vulnerable to attacks in prison. "Given the nature of the crime--violating the civil rights of an African-American--one can assume they are in grave danger in any prison setting," attorney Joel Levine argued in a brief to the court.
Federal prison officials have stated that they chose the prison at Dublin because most prisoners there have been convicted of white-collar crimes and have no history of violence.
The briefs on behalf of the officers were filed with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who handles emergency appeals for nine western states. She referred the appeals to the full court.
"I'm certainly not shocked, but I'm disappointed," Ira Salzman, Koon's attorney, said of the denial.
Salzman said the incarceration of Koon and Powell will hamper preparation of their defense in a pending federal lawsuit filed against them and several other police officers, stemming from the March, 1991, beating of King.
He said Koon and Powell probably will be transferred from Dublin to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Downtown Los Angeles during the civil trial, scheduled to start March 22.