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King v. Washington County

July 7, 2009

THOMAS KING, PLAINTIFF
v.
WASHINGTON COUNTY; WASHINGTON COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; WARDEN JOSEPH PELZER, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS WARDEN OF THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; CAPTAIN OCHKIE; CAPTAIN WAUGH; CAPTAIN CAMPBELL, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR CAPACITY AS OFFICERS WITH THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY; OFFICER CAIN; OFFICER NEWMAN; OFFICER WINTERS, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR CAPACITY AS CORRECTION OFFICERS WITH THE WASHINGTON COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hay, Chief Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS OF THE COURT

The Plaintiff, Thomas King ("King"), initiated this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1 The matter is based on events alleged to have occurred during King's confinement in the Washington County Corrections Facility ("the Jail") in November 2004. Following dismissal of a number of claims and defendants pursuant to stipulation, see Doc. 42, the remaining Section 1983 claim and two state law claims against Defendants Ochkie, Waugh, Campbell, Cain, Newman, and Winters remained. The Plaintiff presented his case to the Court on July 6 and 7, 2009.*fn2 At the close of the Plaintiff's case, the Defendants moved for judgment as a matter of law pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50. The Court treats the motion as one made pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(c), "which parallels ... Rule 50(a), but is applicable to non-jury trials." Rule 52 advisory notes. Having considered the testimony and exhibits comprising the Plaintiff's case, the Court finds that the Plaintiff has failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the Defendant used excessive force against him, and has also failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that any action on the part of the Defendants caused the harms alleged. As a result, the Court will grant the Defendants' Motion. In support of that ruling, the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. At Count I of the Complaint, King, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserts a claim that while he was an inmate at the Jail, the Defendants, Waugh, Cain, Newman, Campbell, Ochkie, and Winters, all corrections officers at the Jail, exercised excessive force against him in violation of his rights under the Fourth, Fourteenth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

2. At Count II, King asserts state law claims for assault and battery.

3. King contends that the Defendants' use of force was motivated by the officers' desire to punish him for an altercation in which King assaulted another corrections officer.

4. The evidence shows that on November 26, 2004, King, after some twelve hours of drinking with a friend, learned that a woman he had been seeing was in a bar behaving provocatively with other men. On his way to that bar, the Plaintiff encountered Jail corrections officers Michael King and James Embler on the sidewalk in Washington, Pennsylvania, while they were in the process of making a daily bank deposit. King knew these officers from having spent time in the Jail for various offenses. He testified that he tried to walk around the officers, but that they repeatedly placed themselves in his path. In his deposition testimony, the Plaintiff stated that Officer Embler stepped on his shoe, and the Plaintiff, intimidated by that action, struck Embler in order to defend himself. The Plaintiff's testimony in Court was somewhat different. There, King stated that when he came face to face with the officers, Officer Embler said something like, "Doesn't it suck that you can't hit me because I'm a police officer?" King then struck Embler and attempted to flee. Officer King began to spray mace on the Plaintiff, and Officer Embler caught him by the leg. The Plaintiff dragged Embler into the street. According to King, he was then maced in the face, at which point he stopped struggling, and was shackled and cuffed. The Washington City Police arrived, placed the Plaintiff in the back of the police car, and transported him to the City Jail where he was placed in a holding cell.

5. EMTs were called to examine the Plaintiff's eyes, but did not indicate that King needed treatment beyond continuing to flush the mace out of his eyes with water.

6. In the Affidavit of Probable Cause prepared following King's arrest, Washington City Police Officer, Corporal David H. Bradley, wrote:

On 11-26-04 at approximately 2040 hrs the Defendant Thomas King Jr. approached 2 correction officers namely Cpt. Michael King and Ofc. James Embler who were on Main Street at Cherry Ave after making a nightly deposit and began a physical fight. Thomas D. King Jr. first shoved Embler and began to take punches at the officers before being taken to the ground. While on the ground Embler was hit in the left eye by Thomas D. King causing it to swell.

Embler was treated at Washington Hospital for his injuries and Michael King was treated at the County Jail infirmary.

Ex. 2c.

7. King was then transported to his Preliminary Arraignment, which occurred at 12:15 a.m. on November 27, 2004. Ex. 2d. Plaintiff was charged with, inter alia, Aggravated Assault. Following the arraignment, King was taken by Corporal Bradley directly to the desk in the processing area of the Jail. Defendants Cain, Newman, Bradley, Waugh, and a new desk sergeant were in the processing area. Defendants Newman and Waugh were behind the desk.

8. King testified that after Corporal Bradley left the Jail, one of the Defendants stated, "You put your hands on one of ours; now you'll pay." King stated that Defendant Cain, who was behind King, slammed King's head against the counter a couple of times. King testified that he turned ...


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