Parkersburg PD faces excessive force suit

PARKERSBURG – A lawsuit alleging the use of excessive force by the Parkersburg Police Department was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

In the suit John Michael Sadler Jr., 24, of Parkersburg alleges excessive force was used against him by Parkersburg police patrolman Jay Hart after he was arrested in August on a driving under the influence charge.

In addition to Hart, the suit lists patrolman Michael Bosley, Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin, Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell and an officer identified as John Doe.

Sadler’s complaint filed by attorneys John H. Bryan of Union, W.Va., and Paul V. Morrison II of Harrisville states the use of excessive force violated Sadler’s rights under the fourth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Sadler’s suit states the mayor and police chief have “developed, implemented, fostered and encouraged a policy, custom, pattern and practice of using excessive force against arrestees and pretrial detainees” and continue to implement the policy.

In a 2011 letter in regard to a different action involving the city police department, all officers attended a required meeting where they were told if they were in a scuffle with an arrestee or detainee, they were to beat them and put them in the hospital, the lawsuit states. Newell allegedly said he was tired of small, frivolous complaints against the department, added he knew how to deal with the insurance companies and the officers did not need to worry about the issue, the lawsuit states.

Sadler was in the custody of the department on Aug. 13, 2013, following his arrest for DUI and was being processed by Hart and Bosley. In his use of force report, Hart said Sadler became disorderly by yelling and screaming at officers and standing up, the lawsuit states. Hart’s report said Sadler was given verbal commands to sit down and he refused.

“Sadler approached officers in an aggressive manner and was forcibly taken to the floor by both officers and then lifted up and seated on the bench,” the report stated.

According to the lawsuit, Hart struck Sadler once in the stomach with no compliance from Sadler and then Hart used a pressure point on the neck area until Sadler calmed down and remained seated, the report states.

It is also stated that Hart choked Sadler, who was handcuffed with his arms behind his back, and surveillance video shows he was standing still and was not resisting, assaulting or attacking anyone in the processing area. Bosley is seen observing Hart striking and choking Sadler, the lawsuit states, but he and Doe did nothing to stop Hart’s actions.

A charge against Sadler for obstructing an officer was dismissed and “he did not plead guilty to any criminal charge arising out of the incident captured on the surveillance video.”

The lawsuit alleges there has been a past pattern and practice of excessive force incidents by the Parkersburg Police Department.

“They have paid settlements in multiple past incidents involving Terry Ratliff, Timothy Mazza and Jerry Seabolt,” the lawsuit states. “Other incidents have occurred where no lawsuit was filed or no complaint was ever made.”

Settlements totaling $305,00 have been paid: $100,000 to Mazza, $70,000 to Ratliff and $135,000 to Seabolt, according to the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit four alleged counts are cited, one for excessive force by Hart; two, failure to intercede against Bosley and defendant Doe; three, municipal liability against the City of Parkersburg; four, supervisory liability against Newell and Martin and conspiracy to deprive civil rights, also against Newell and Martin.

A trial by jury is demanded by the plaintiff.

Sadler’s attorneys asked for damages against the defendants in an amount to be determined at trial to compensate Sadler for medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, psychological and emotional distress, compensatory and punitive damages to be proved at trial, reasonable attorney fees, any relief the court determines to be just and fair and other damages provided by law.

In the lawsuit, attorneys also ask for injunctive relief requiring appropriate training, supervision and discipline to remedy constitutional deprivations Sadler allegedly suffered and declaratory judgment relief establishing the defendants conduct violates clearly established constitutional rights.