A federal jury has awarded $60,000 to a 53-year-old accountant who was roughed up and Tased by Normandy Park police after he tried to talk to the chief about rude treatment.
A federal jury has awarded $60,000 to a 53-year-old accountant who was roughed up and tased by Normandy Park police after he tried to talk to the chief about rude treatment.
The jury found that Detective John Lievero used excessive force and displayed conduct that was “malicious, oppressive, or in reckless disregard” of Kevin Bonner’s civil rights when he arrested Bonner at the Normandy Park police station in April 2005.
The verdict was returned Tuesday following an eight-day trial before U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez in Seattle.
Bonner, his wife, his daughter and 3-year-old grandaughter had been called to the department by Lievero, who was investigating allegations that Bonner’s wife had physically abused the couple’s grandchild. The allegations stemmed from a bitter custody battle involving Bonner’s daughter and her former boyfriend. Bonner and his family came to the department to dispute the allegations, according to court documents.
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Lievero took the family into an interview room, where things did not go well. Bonner said he was frustrated, at one point telling Lievero, “We know you are not an idiot, so why are you acting like one?” according to trial briefs.
The detective ended the interview and told Bonner to leave.
Bonner thought he might have better luck with Chief Rick Kieffer, whose office was just a few steps down the hallway from the interview room, but in the opposite direction from where he had come in, according to documents filed by Bonner’s attorney, Jeffrey Needle.
Lievero told Bonner he couldn’t leave that way. When Bonner said he wanted to talk to the chief, Lievero responded that he had to make an appointment with the receptionist and that he would be arrested if he didn’t stop, the documents say.
“By the time Detective Lievero had finished making this statement, (Bonner) had arrived at Chief Rick Kieffer’s door and had stopped walking,” Needle wrote.
Kieffer was standing in the doorway, but before Bonner could speak, witnesses said Lievero grabbed Bonner’s arm and forced it behind his back. Bonner complained to Kieffer that the detective was “out of control and shaking” as another officer joined Lievero, grabbed Bonner’s other arm and began walking him back toward the reception area.
Bonner claims he did not resist, although the officers say otherwise. Lievero described Bonner as belligerent and the city’s attorneys said in court documents that he “stormed” the chief’s office.
Telephone calls to Kieffer and Lievero at the Normandy Park police station were not immediately returned today. The city’s attorney, Brenda Bannon, was not available.
While Bonner was being escorted out of the station, Lievero delivered at least two jolts from his Taser, set on “touch-stun mode.” Bonner said the first one knocked him to his knees. The second time, he was on his stomach while being handcuffed.
“Lievero testified that he Tased (Bonner) only after he observed (the other officer’s) unsuccessful efforts to place plaintiff in a position to be handcuffed,” according to Needle’s trial brief.
The other officer, however, said in a deposition that Bonner “was under control.”
Bonner was charged with obstruction, but the misdemeanor charge was later dismissed.
Before the trial, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez ruled that Lievero had cause to arrest Bonner, but let the questions of whether the detective used excessive force, or was guilty of assault and battery, go to the jury after an eight-day trial.
The panel, after eight days of testimony, acquitted the detective of assault, but found that Lievero violated Bonner’s civil rights by using excessive force during the arrest. It awarded him $35,000 in compensatory damages and, because the panel found Lievero’s actions were “malicious … oppressive, or in reckless disregard” of Bonner’s rights, awarded him another $25,000 in punitive damages.
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or firstname.lastname@example.org