The summary judgement ruling in Lea's lawsuit against Crawford means a jury will only need to decide how much to award Lea in damages, not determine whether police actually violated the then 18-year-old's rights.
Because they did, and U.S. District Court Judge Greg Stivers already ruled.
"It's no secret that what Det. Crawford and that unit were doing was unlawful and had a huge impact on the community," said attorney Sam Aguiar, who represents Lea. "So for the court to recognize that and rule their actions were unconstitutional as a matter of law is vindicating and hopefully sets the precedent that if the police were to try and engage in this conduct again, they will be held accountable."
former Detective Crawford, defended the stop in sworn testimony, saying Lea was slow to pull over, his hands were shaking, and he did not tell the officer he had a "weapon" — a miniature Louisville Slugger baseball bat — in his vehicle.
But Judge Stivers ruled that "the mere possession of a souvenir bat weighing six ounces ... does not objectively support a reasonable belief that Lea was armed any more than a screwdriver, a sharpened pencil or a pair of scissors, had those objects been present inside the car. This is particularly true given that Lea gave no indication of any attempt to brandish or even touch the souvenir bat."
This is major, cops are finally busted for being utter unprofessional assholes.
"A reasonable officer would have known that nervousness was not a reliable indicator of whether a potential suspect is armed and dangerous," Stivers ruled.
The judge added that Lea's "demeanor and actions cannot be described as nervous, but rather exasperated or annoyed."
Lea, who was driving his mother's Dodge Charger, was handcuffed for about 20 minutes while police and a K-9 searched his vehicle.
No drugs or guns were found of course
After a video of the stop on YouTube went viral with more than 1 million views, the Louisville Metro Police Department was scrutinized and widely condemned for how officers in its 9th Mobile Division treated Lea, including questioning him about why he was nervous, breathing heavily and had such "a negative view toward the police."
Lea, a past homecoming king at Central High School with no criminal record, was released with a citation that was later dismissed in court.
While the incident sparked calls for police accountability and helped change LMPD traffic stop policies, the internal investigation languished for nearly two years and no disciplinary action was taken against any officer involved.
Judge Stivers ruled that Crawford's justifications for the stop and frisk were "inconsistent with his actions shown on the bodycam footage. Crawford's video shows he made no acknowledgement of the miniature bat, not an effort to secure it."