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Arkansas Prisoner Prevails in Excessive Force Case

A prisoner who was subjected to excessive force and denied due process at the Pike County Detention Center in Murfreesboro, Arkansas received $501 plus court costs following a summary judgment order and settlement agreement.

Prisoner Alan C. Onstad was caught by jail guard Jack Naron passing love notes to female prisoners and watching them expose themselves. Without processing a disciplinary report or holding a hearing, Nathan moved Onstad to a book-in cell on two occasions, resulting in four days of total isolation. While in the book-in cell, Onstad was deprived of shower, television and phone privileges.

Onstad also claimed that Naron had used excessive force when he maced him for calling Naron names, but the district court found it was undisputed that Onstad “was being disruptive, failed to follow orders, or that he attempted to obtain objects from the booking desk.” As such, the court granted summary judgment to Naron on that claim.

However, the court found genuine issues of fact existed as to the amount of force used to decontaminate Onstad after the macing. Onstad alleged he was taken “into the 30° weather and ordered to lie down in the snow and ice while [guards] sprayed [him] with a high pressure nozzle on the end of a garden hose ... at full force.”

Naron and jailer Travis Hill countered that the hose was of the regular garden variety, was not turned up all the way, the valve was at low pressure, and the temperature was in the forties or fifties without snow or ice on the ground. The district court held a jury had to resolve the factual disputes between the parties.

As to Onstad’s due process claim involving placement in the book-in cell without a hearing, the court granted summary judgment to Onstad on January 20, 2015, awarding him $1 in nominal damages and ordering Naron to pay the $350 court filing fee. Following that order, Naron accepted Onstad’s offer to settle his excessive force claim for $500 in February 2015. Onstad litigated the entire case pro se. See: Onstad v. Naron, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Ark.), Case No. 6:12-cv-06020-SOH. 

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Related legal case

Onstad v. Naron