by Matt Clarke
On May 12, 2017, a Colorado federal jury awarded $50,000 to a former jail prisoner who was assaulted by a deputy while speaking with a judge in a Denver courtroom.
According to court documents, Deputy Brad Lovingier restrained Anthony Waller with handcuffs, leg irons and a belly chain, all of which were connected to a box at his waist, before taking him to Denver County Court for his first advisement hearing on September 11, 2012. Waller was talking respectfully with Judge Doris Burd when Lovingier came up behind him. When Waller turned slightly to look at Lovingier, the deputy suddenly grabbed him by the belly chain, spun him forcefully and slammed him into a reinforced glass wall and steel post that separated the courtroom from the prisoner holding area.
Due to the restraints, Waller was unable to break or control his fall. He suffered a deep head laceration, a closed head injury and a left orbital blowout fracture. He had additional injuries to his back, neck, legs, arms and ankles, and had teeth knocked out.
Waller collapsed to the courtroom floor while Lovingier stood over him saying, “Get up, get up, get up. Get on your feet. You don’t turn on me boy.” The use of the term “boy” by Lovingier, who is white, was an apparent racial slur against Waller, who is black, according to a subsequent lawsuit.
The entire incident was captured by courtroom surveillance video, and the footage was obtained by the Colorado Independent and posted online. Judge Burd reported the assault to the presiding judge over the Denver County Court, who filed a complaint against Lovingier – the son of former Denver Sheriff William Lovingier.
Deputy Lovingier, in turn, contacted the Denver Police Department to file charges against Waller for “resisting.” Following an investigation, the police refused to file charges. Denver Sheriff’s Department Captain Gina McCall then contacted a police supervisor, demanding that the police return, take a report and file criminal charges against Waller. They did so. A month later the prosecutor moved to dismiss the charges due to lack of evidence.
The Denver Sheriff’s Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau took over a year to complete its investigation of the incident, finally recommending that Lovingier be suspended for 30 days. The suspension was upheld on appeal.
Assisted by Denver attorney Kenneth A. Padilla, Waller filed a federal civil rights action against the City and County of Denver, Lovingier and McCall. The district court dismissed Denver and McCall as defendants. The case went to trial, and jurors found Lovingier had used excessive force against Waller, a pre-trial detainee, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. He was awarded $50,000 in compensatory damages.
Former Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey had refused to prosecute Lovingier, saying the deputy did not intend to injure Waller. Other deputies who were in the courtroom at the time said Waller was acting aggressively, though no aggressive behavior is apparent on the surveillance video.
A Denver district judge said Deputy Lovingier should have been charged with misdemeanor assault, but it was too late to do so as the statute of limitations had expired. Lovingier reportedly no longer works for the Sheriff’s Department.
Following the jury verdict, the county filed a motion to amend the judgment to reflect that it “was entered against Defendant Brady Lovingier in his individual capacity only rather than against him in both his individual and official capacities.” The district court granted the motion, and assessed attorney fees and costs against Lovingier in the amounts of $176,226 and $8,533.05, respectively.
Waller filed an appeal in July 2017, challenging several of the district court’s pretrial orders, including the dismissal of the other defendants.
Because the judgment was against Lovingier in his individual capacity, the city and county defendants are not responsible for paying the jury award; rather, Waller will have to collect the judgment from Lovingier personally. See: Waller v. City and County of Denver, U.S.D.C. (D. Col.), Case No. 1:14-cv-02109-WYD-NYW.
Additional sources: Associated Press, www.denver.cbslocal.com, www.coloradoindependent.com
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Related legal case
Waller v. City and County of Denver
|U.S.D.C. (D. Col.), Case No. 1:14-cv-02109-WYD-NYW