Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Unremembered Massachusetts Police Station Beating Actionable Under Fourth Amendment

On November 24, 2010, a Massachusetts federal court ruled that a man who couldn't remember the circumstances of his being beaten in a City of Worcester, Massachusetts police station holding cell could nonetheless sue the police officer he suspected of administering the beating for use of excessive force in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights and state law

Anthony J. Moreau, Jr., was arrested for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace after an altercation with his in-laws that escalated to him and his wife's stepfather wrestling on the in-laws' front lawn. The arresting officer delivered him to the jail. During the booking process, Moreau felt provoked by Officer Brian Gerardi who allegedly taunted him and told him, "You don't know me. I'm known for beating people up."

Later, Gerardi and another officer locked Moreau into a cell by himself. According to Gerardi, there ensued a verbal altercation because Moreau, whose booking phone call had been cut off, wanted to make another call. Gerardi said he tried to explain that there was a phone in the cell. However, the last thing Moreau remembered before recovering consciousness injured, bleeding and kneeling over a toilet with his hair in the toilet water was Gerardi banging on the cell window then reaching for his key to the cell.All of the incident up to Gerardi reaching for his keys was recorded on the station's videotaping equipment. Then the camera mysteriously stops recording.

Morreau filed a federal civil rights suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against both officers and the city alleging excessive use of force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and various state claims. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment.
The court held that, "The mere fact that Moureau has no recollection of the alleged assault itself does not indicate that there is no genuine dispute of facts; rather, plaintiff's evidence, although circumstantial, is sufficient for a jury to infer that it is more likely than not that Gerardi caused his injuries."

In a well-reasoned memorandum, the court noted that there is a circuit split, unresolved in the First Circuit, on which Amendment covered excessive use of force against an arrestee who has been delivered to a jail but not yet seen a magistrate. Using the more lenient Fourth Amendment standard, the court held that "a jury could conclude that Gerardi acted unreasonably" in reopening the cell to beat Moreau when he posed no threat. The court denied summary judgment on the Fourth Amendment, assault and battery and Massachusetts Civil Rights Act claims against Gerardi, but granted summary judgment on all the claims against the city and the other officer, dismissing them from the suit. See: Moreau v. Gerardi, U.S.D.C.-D.Mass., C.A.No. 08-40117-FDS

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Moreau v. Gerardi