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City of Jasper Settles Jail Beating Suit for $75,000

In November 2013, the City of Jasper, Texas, settled a lawsuit brought by a young black woman who was allegedly beaten by police at the Jasper City Jail without justification. She received $75,000.

Keyarika Diggles, a 25-year-old single mother of two young children, was a young black woman who was allegedly beaten by police at the Jasper City Jail without justification. Diggles was asleep in her home on May 5, 2013, when Jasper police arrived to arrest her. Diggles had been paying monthly installments on a traffic ticket and had paid the fine down to $100. Nonetheless, Jasper police officers Ryan Cunningham and Rick Grissom said they had a municipal traffic warrant for her arrest, which they did not produce, and that they were on a "warrant sweep," to arrest people with outstanding warrants. They handcuffed Diggles behind her back and transported her to the jail where Diggles was the only prisoner.

According to court documents, Grissom told Diggles she would be released if she paid the full ticket amount plus a "service fee" of $50. She got on the phone and tried to arrange payment, but Grissom became angry as she was explaining the situation to her mother. Grissom terminated the phone call. A verbal confrontation ensued and both Grissom and Cunningham grabbed Diggles by her hair and slammed her head into the booking counter. Cunningham then body slammed the stunned Diggles to the floor before dragging her by her feet to an isolation cell.

At the isolation cell, both officers tried to force Diggles to her feet by yanking her by her handcuffed hands. Police officers are trained not to do this as it causes severe pain in the shoulders. The still handcuffed Diggles was forced into the isolation cell and denied any medical treatment despite having suffered injuries including hair ripped from her scalp, a tooth dangling by its root and a dental brace spearing her upper lip.

During these events, police dispatcher Lindsey Davenport watched or assisted Cunningham and Grissom. Later, she strip searched Diggles. The three of them swore out charges against Diggles for resisting arrest which were later rejected by the district attorney's office.

Doubtlessly Diggles would have been convicted of the charges had not Alton Scott, the sole black council member on the Jasper City Council, obtained a surveillance videotape showing what had transpired and given it to a Beaumont television station on May 30, 2013. The videotape clearly showed that the beating was unjustified. It even showed that Cunningham's sunglasses remained perched upon his forehead during the entire incident, emphasizing that Diggles was not struggling, fighting or resisting in any manner.

Once the television station began its investigation, Cunningham and Grissom were suspended. Later, they were fired. Nothing was done to Davenport until she was arrested in connection with a violent altercation with her boyfriend, Cunningham. Then she was fired.

Aided by Beaumont attorney Case Bernsen, Diggles filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal court alleging violations of her constitutional rights and pendent state torts. The complaint also outlined allegations of long-standing racial violence in the Jasper Police Department and racism in the Jasper City Council. The city opted to quickly settle the suit by paying Diggles $75,000. No criminal charges were filed against Cunningham or Grissom.

"There's ample evidence that these men should be charged with assault," said Bernsen. That may be so, but, in Jasper, the likelihood of two white former police officers being charged with a crime for beating a black prisoner is very slight. See: Diggles v. City of Jasper, U.S.D.C.-E.D.TX, Case No. 1:13-cv-00361-RC.


Additional sources: Tim Monzingo

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Related legal case

Diggles v. City of Jasper