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$185,000 Settlement in Beating of Florida Jail Prisoner; Guard Convicted

by David M. Reutter

Florida’s Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) has paid $185,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging a jailer assaulted a pretrial detainee.

Audra West was booked into the North Broward Detention Facility on April 2, 2014 for disorderly intoxication, trespass and resisting arrest without violence. While sitting in a waiting area during processing, West asked guard Kristen Connelly for a sanitary pad or tampon because she was having her menstrual period and blood was dripping down her legs.

Connelly told her to ask nicely, but after West said please, the guard told her she was not getting the sanitary product, stating that since West had entered the jail she had displayed an attitude toward her. West said under her breath, “Fuck you.” Connelly heard the remark and asked West to repeat it. She complied. 

In response, Connelly came around the desk area and guard Henry Lawrence, anticipating she was going to act violently, warned her not to take action. Connelly, however, was seen on video hitting West twice in the face. She then grabbed West and started “swinging her back and forth,” a witness said. The video was publicly released in June 2015. [See: PLN, Nov. 2015, p.63].

“I did not see where Audra West presented a physical threat to the deputy before being forcefully dragged out of her chair into a room with four other deputies, where Audra West was allegedly beaten,” Assistant State Attorney Mark Horn wrote in a report.

Following her release, West filed a complaint with BCSO’s Internal Affairs (IA) and the guards involved in the incident filed belated reports on April 9, 2014, which included Connelly requesting that charges be filed against West. The prosecutor declined.

The IA found no wrongdoing by the guards, but the State Attorney’s Office charged Connelly with misdemeanor battery and she was convicted by a jury in January 2017. She was ordered to pay court costs and restitution, and suspended without pay. Despite agreeing to settle a federal lawsuit filed by West for $185,000 on March 18, 2019, BCSO officials continued to deny any wrongdoing. West was represented by Fort Lauderdale attorney Gary Nollin. See: West v. Tony, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Fla.), Case No. 0:18-cv-60534-KMW. 

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Additional sources: Broward-Palm Beach New Times, local10.com

Related legal case

West v. Tony