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Milwaukee Man Receives $506,000 Award for Wrongful Stop

A Wisconsin federal jury awarded $506,000 to a man who was stopped without reason and wrongfully arrested.

As Leo Hardy was leaving his mother’s home, Milwaukee police officers Michael Gasser and Keith Garland, Jr., stopped him on March 13, 2012, for an alleged traffic violation.  They used the “alleged traffic stop as false pretense to search Mr. Hardy without probable cause,” his civil rights complaint alleges.

Gasser then searched “Hardy by reaching his hands into Mr. Hardy’s pants and inappropriately touched [his] genitalia.”  Fearing for his safety, Hardy ran.  He was quickly caught, and the officers conducted “a public strip search…on the street.”  Hardy was arrested and spent 21 days in jail for resisting arrest.  No weapons or contraband were found on him.

Hardy sued.  The matter went to trial, and the jury’s August 7, 2014, verdict found Gasser and Garland did not have a reasonable suspicion at the time of the stop, that Hardy was committing, about to or had committed a crime.  It awarded $2,500 in compensatory damages against each officer.

The jury further found that neither Gasser nor Garland had probable cause to arrest Hardy; it awarded $1,000 compensatory damages on that claim.  It further found Gasser and Garland acted with malicious or reckless disregard for Hardy’s rights, awarding $250,000 in punitive damages against each officer.

“The jury believed Leo Hardy, and they sent a message that no police officer can stop a man and put their hands on him simply because he is black in Milwaukee,” said Hardy’s attorney Russell Ainsworth following the $506,000 jury award.  See: Hardy v. Gasser, USDC, E.D. Wisconsin, Case No 13-cv-769. Additional source: Journal Sentinel

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Related legal case

Hardy v. Gasser