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Ray Valentine

Other Misdemeanor Exonerations
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At about 10:20 p.m. on July 14, 2013, 55-year-old Ray Valentine was driving a Ford pickup truck owned by a friend, Greg Kushner, back to Kushner’s home in Concord, California after borrowing it to haul scrap metal.

Along the way, Concord police officer Matthew Switzer began following the truck and conducted a licence plate check. Switzer discovered that Kushner had outstanding felony warrants.

Kushner was described as a 32-year-old white male weighing 240 pounds and standing about six feet tall.

Switzer later claimed that he activated the squad car’s overhead lights, but the truck did not stop. Valentine later said he did not see the lights because a camper shell on the back of the truck made it almost impossible to see out of the back of the truck.

Valentine continued driving at about 20 miles an hour and Switzer radioed that he was in pursuit of a man with outstanding felony narcotics warrants. As additional squad cars raced to the location, Switzer turned on his siren.

Valentine, who was listening to the radio, made a couple of turns before he realized that the sirens and lights were meant for him and not someone else. Switzer ordered Valentine to stop over his squad car public address system and Valentine immediately pulled over—into his destination: Kushner’s driveway.

He got out of the truck with hands up and turned to face Switzer, who emerged from his squad car, pointed his pistol at Valentine’s chest. Valentine, asked, “What did I do wrong? Why are you harassing me?”

Despite the fact that Valentine was a 55-year-old Hispanic man much shorter and lighter in weight that the 32-year-old Kushner, a white man—and therefore was not the man who had outstanding warrants—Switzer reached back, opened the passenger door of his squad car and yelled out a command. A German shepherd police dog bolted from the squad car and attacked Valentine, tearing at his arms and hands and legs. Other officers arrived and Valentine was punched in the face and body and the dog was dragged away.

He was handcuffed and taken to a hospital for treatment of numerous wounds, some of which involved "protruding" muscle and tissue.

Valentine was charged with misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and evading a police officer. He contended that he did not resist and that he never sought to evade the squad car. Valentine went to trial in Contra Costa Superior Court and was convicted by a jury on January 17, 2014 based on the testimony of Switzer who testified that Valentine acted aggressively after getting out of the truck, prompting the release of the police dog.

Valentine was sentenced to 110 days in prison and was released in February 2014 after receiving credit for time in custody prior to trial.

Over the next several months, Valentine became critically ill after his wounds became infected, prompting further medical procedures. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and suffered from depression and recurring nightmares. He lost his residence and was homeless until a charitable organization got him into a shelter.

Meanwhile, in May 2014, a few months after Valentine was released from jail, Switzer was charged and pled guilty to stealing prescription drugs from the elderly. He was sentenced to six months in jail and ordered to complete a residential drug-treatment program.

A 12-year police veteran, Switzer admitted that he had been stealing the drugs to feed an addiction to painkillers following an on-duty injury. In early 2015, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office requested that the California Court of Appeals, where Valentine’s appeal of his conviction as pending, vacate the conviction because of the disclosure of Switzer’s misconduct.

In March 2015, the appeals court granted the request and vacated the conviction. On June 19, 2015, the prosecution dismissed the charges against Valentine.

In March 2016, Valentine filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Concord and Switzer. The lawsuit was settled in May 2017 for $150,000.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 3/22/2016
Last Updated: 8/16/2017
State:California
County:Contra Costa
Most Serious Crime:Other
Additional Convictions:Other
Reported Crime Date:2013
Convicted:2014
Exonerated:2015
Sentence:110 days
Race:Hispanic
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:55
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No