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Jury Awards $1.8 Million for False Arrest and Malicious Prosecution

In April, 2008, five Maryland men were awarded more than $1.8 million in compensatory and punitive damages in a civil rights suit alleging false arrest and malicious prosecution by Baltimore police officer Robert Cirello.

Plaintiffs' attorneys, James L. Rhodes and Myron T. Brown of Baltimore, argued that Cirello approached four of the five men -- Jacob Adams, Kerney Toomer, Charles Bowman and Shawn Clowney -- as they were leaving a Baltimore park following a game of pick-up basketball. Plaintiffs alleged Cirello used vulgar language while ordering them to leave the park or he would "go through (their) pockets." When Clowney voiced the intent to get the officer's badge number to report his behavior, Cirello responded by pepper-spraying Clowney and arresting him. Within minutes, the other three men were also arrested, as well as a fifth man, 45-year-old Rudolph Hill, who claimed to be an innocent bystander in the incident. A young woman who witnessed the encounter supported the Plaintiffs' version of events. Cirello, on the other hand, insisted the Plaintiffs pulled a knife on him and tried to stab him. Hill, the innocent bystander, remained in jail for nearly six months before being acquitted of assault on a police officer and second degree assault.

Following two hours of deliberations, the jury returned a favorable verdict for the Plaintiffs, awarding them a total of $1,847,200. Due to his innocent bystander status, Hill's share of the award was $500,000. Clowney received $349,200. Adams received $342,000. Toomer and Bowman got $ 328,000 each. Source: Metro Verdicts Monthly. See: Baltimore, Md., Circuit Court, # 24c07000304; 24c07007332 (Specific court & case name unknown).

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