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Former Orange County Jail Detainee Paid $750,000 to Settle Guard Tasering Suit

In March 2010, Orange County, California paid $750,000 to settle a civil rights suit filed by Matthew Fleuret, a former jail prisoner who alleged he was subjected to excessive force following his arrest in March 2006 on suspicion of obstructing a deputy in the performance of his duties, after Fleuret got into a bar fight on St. Patrick’s Day.

Fleuret was never prosecuted, but the incident that gave rise to his lawsuit was videotaped and made public after he sued the county for $47.5 million. The video showed Fleuret being placed in a holding cell, then being held down by at least five guards. Over a period of some 13 minutes, Fleuret’s arms were pulled back while he was shocked with a Taser 11 times.

According to internal records from the sheriff’s department, Fleuret was intoxicated and uncooperative at the time of the incident. The county did not admit fault when agreeing to the settlement. See: Fleuret v. County of Orange, U.S.D.C. (CD Cal.), Case No. 8:07-cv-00803-AG-AN.

Since then, however, the department’s policy regarding use of force has changed dramatically, at least according to Assistant Sheriff Tim Board, who attributes the turnaround to the appointment of Sandra Hutchens as Orange County Sheriff in 2008.
Hutchens’ predecessor, former Sheriff Michael S. Carona, resigned after being indicted on corruption charges; he was later convicted and sentenced to 66 months in federal prison. [See: PLN, Feb. 2009, p.1; Nov. 2009, p.38]. During Carona’s tenure, two prisoners died after being Tasered while a third was beaten to death by other prisoners within sight of the guards’ glass-enclosed booth.

The ACLU has called on the sheriff’s department to limit the use of Tasers to situations where there is a threat of death or serious injury.

Additional source: Los Angeles Times

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Related legal case

Fleuret v. County of Orange