The fourth amendment of the Constitution is the best friend of former Hawks forward Mike Scott. The fourth amendment protects citizens from government intrusion without probable cause, meaning the police have no legal basis to conduct a search during a minor traffic stop without a significant reason. Being black isn’t a reason.
Because this happened to Scott, an illegal search, racial profiling, misrepresenting the facts, and because Mike Scott had the ability to afford elite counsel, his attorneys argued for the evidence to be suppressed in his case. They won. Without evidence the case is like the Hawks 2016-17 season, dead. Mike Scott will not go to trial, will spend zero time in jail and can resume his career. (Or, can he?)
Everything turned on Mike Scott’s behalf when Banks County Superior Court Judge Currie M. Mingledorff threw out the evidence- an ounce of marijuana and 10 grams of MMDA- saying the search of Mike Scott’s brother (Antonn’s) car was illegal and possibly a racial profile snare. Scott was in the passenger seat. The law was not enforced in a “racially neutral manner” according to Judge Mingledorff. Deputy Brett Register was found to have no reason to stop the car, no probable cause to arrest Scott and his brother, and the search of the car was improper. The judge said Deputy Register gave “testimony that was in contradiction to admitted documentary evidence.”
The judge was clear to point out that Deputy Register had stopped 1400 vehicles in one year. 8 citations were issued and 47 were arrested. Of those 47 arrests, 44 were minorities. 93%. The judge said, “These numbers are truly shocking.”
But for those of us who know, the shocking part is that the judge found it shocking.
While Scott was in this legal battle, his career hit the skids. He was arrested two months after appearing in the Eastern Conference Finals in May 2015. At the time of the arrest, he did something you are never supposed to do when arrested. He talked. He didn’t ask for counsel and he confessed to the drugs, that they were his. His confession was on videotape. MDMA (Molly) is a schedule 1 drug in the state of Georgia and incurs the stiffest penalties. Scott was facing a 25 year maximum sentence.
His career from August 2015 until May 2017 was ho-hum, particularly this year when he didn’t get the minutes. The Hawks traded him in a salary cap move to Phoenix who then waived him. No one picked him up, fearing his criminal case would skew negative for him. Had the case not hung over his head, a playoff team needing a scorer and rebounder would have signed him as insurance. He’s young and athletic and can finish. The Clippers needed help on their bench. The Wizards need help on their bench. The Pacers needed help on their bench. No calls for Mike Scott were forthcoming.
Scott’s attorney said, “In my 35 years of practicing law this could be the worst case of racial profiling I have ever seen and hopefully this will lead to Banks County, Georgia reevaluationg their policies.” That probably isn’t going to happen. Scott isn’t a big enough name to change an institutional habit, stop the black man and search his car illegally.
This July we will see how teams judge Mike Scott. Will they interpret this latest twist in his case as luck, police abuse, racism, anger, empathy or does Mike Scott even matter? The thing is, can he still play? He has to answer that question as well as soothe skittish GM’s about the drugs he confessed to.
Mike Scott is 28 years old, a 6-8 power forward who is a stretch four. He can shoot from the perimeter. He’s a great mid-range shooter and can finish at the rim. When he gets 15 minutes a game he is productive on both ends of the floor and can make open shots. He is a high energy player but now the hard part of his career begins. He has to get teams to trust him, racially profiled or not. The slate is new and he has to put the baggage from his case in the background as he tries to restart his career. He has a place in the NBA if he still has confidence and he plays with joy. The salary cap being what it is, teams with stars are going to be on the hunt for role players they don’t have to commit a lot of money to but who have value and versatility.
photo via llananba