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Summary Judgment Denied in Ohio Police Excessive Force Case

An Ohio Federal district Court granted in part and denied in part a motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit against guards at the Montgomery County Jail, alleging use of excessive force.

After being arrested by Dayton Police for criminal damaging and disorderly conduct on May 13, 2006, Louis Aldini Jr. was taken to the Montgomery County Jail. While waiting for the booking process, he asked to use the telephone several times in a demanding manner. Guards put him in a vacant cell as he continued to badger them.

Minutes later, enraged guards entered the cell as Aldini raised his hands and stated he was not resisting. Guard Dustin Johnson then took Aldini to the floor and began beating and kicking him, with other guards joining in. During this altercation, Sgt. Troy Bodine entered the cell and tasered Aldini several times. Finally, guards Joshua Kaczmarek and Steven Leopold forcefully placed Aldini in a restraint chair. Later, Aldini posted bond and was taken to the hospital by friends for treatment of his injuries.

In the summary judgment proceeding, the Court had to determine whether the Fourth, Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment applied to Aldini’s excessive force claims. The Court found that “The Eighth Amendment does not apply to this incident because Aldini was not…a convicted prisoner.”

The Court then held the Fourth Amendment does not apply because that protection continues only until the arresting officer completely and finally surrenders physical custody to a jailer. There was no dispute that had occurred prior to the use of force.

Instead, the guards’ conduct must be measured under the substantive component of the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause, which provides the individual with protection against physical abuse by officials. As to that claim, the Court concluded a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Johnson violated Aldini’s right to be free from force that shocks the conscience, for a jury could conclude his “use of force was unnecessary: he could simply have closed the [cell] door…rather than giving in and taking […] Aldini to the floor.”

Because Aldini resisted being placed in the chair, the force used by Kaczmarek and Leopold to restrain him did not shock the conscience. A jury question, however, exists as to Bodine’s use of the taser. While he says only that he tasered Aldini “more than three times in ten minutes,” the hospital photograph shows “at least a half dozen twin taser marks.”

The guards were entitled to qualified immunity on claims for length of detention after bail was posted, and there was no evidence of an official policy to support the official capacity claims. Finally, the court denied Johnson and Bodine summary judgment on Aldini’s state law claims of assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

See: Louis Aldini v. Dustin L. Johnson, U.S.D.C. Southern District Ohio, Case No. 3:07-cv-183.

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Related legal case

Louis Aldini v. Dustin L. Johnson