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Oregon Jail Beating Nets $500 Jury Award Plus $27,500 in Attorney Fees

In December 2009, a federal jury in Portland, Oregon awarded a hearing-impaired jail prisoner $500 for a beating inflicted by guards during the booking process. The defendants also paid attorney’s fees of $27,500.

On September 11, 2006, Michael Evans was arrested and booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC). Evans, who suffered from a partial hearing impairment, had difficulty hearing the guards’ commands.

Deputy Richard Hathaway grabbed Evans’ right arm and put his hand in a control hold. Deputy Robert Griffith then grabbed Evans’ other arm, as Hathaway kicked Evans in the back of the knee, forcing him to the ground. Once on the ground, Hathaway punched Evans at least seven times. Griffith punched him twice and used his knee to push Evans’ head into the floor.

While Evans was restrained on the ground, police officer Ryan Albertson kneed him twice, another officer helped pin his legs to the floor and Sergeant Cathline Gorton pointed a Taser at Evans’ face, aimed the laser sight in his eyes and threatened to use it on him.

Evans suffered a bloody, broken nose plus abrasions, contusions, severe head and facial swelling, bruising and swelling on his back, and injuries to his knees and back. He was denied medical care for approximately 18 hours, during which time he was forced to use his shirt to soak up blood and apply pressure to his broken nose.

Hathaway issued Evans a misconduct report, charging him with staff assault, disruptive and disrespectful behavior, and disobedience of an order. “Inmate Evans struck me in the nose during booking. A use of force occurred in the booking area. Evans would not follow the directions given to him during booking,” Hathaway wrote. Evans was found guilty and sanctioned to 60 days in segregation plus a $5.00 fine. Hathaway claimed in a use of force report that he hit Evans just three times, when he actually hit him at least seven times.

Evans also was charged with the offense of Assaulting a Public Safety Officer; the charges were dismissed, however, when Hathaway failed to appear under subpoena.
Evans sued Hathaway, Griffith, Albertson, Gorton, the Sheriff and Multnomah County in federal court, alleging they had subjected him to excessive force, assault and battery, and malicious prosecution. He sought compensatory and punitive damages plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

The case proceeded to trial, and on December 15, 2009 a federal jury found that Hathaway had subjected Evans to excessive force and awarded compensatory damages of $250 on that claim. On the state assault and battery torts, the jury found that Gorton did not commit an assault against Evans; that Albertson committed a battery against Evans but was justified in doing so; and that Hathaway and Griffith committed battery against Evans that was not justified. The jury awarded $250 in compensatory damages against Multnomah County on the latter claim, but rejected Evans’ malicious prosecution claim and found he was not entitled to punitive damages.

The defendants agreed to pay $27,500 in attorney’s fees to Evans’ attorney, Benjamin Haile of Portland, Oregon. See: Evans v. Multnomah County, U.S.D.C. (D OR), Case No. 3:07-cv-01532-BR.

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Related legal case

Evans v. Multnomah County