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$90,000 Paid by Illinois County to Prisoner Tasered by Two Guards He Wasn’t Resisting

by David M. Reutter

After guards at the Lake County Jail (LCJ) in Illinois were sued for using excessive force by tasering an unresisting prisoner, the parties reached a settlement for $90,000 on June 30, 2021.

The prisoner, Christopher Davis, was held at LCJ while awaiting sentencing and housed in the Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU) for disciplinary infractions when, on December 31, 2015, he broke the fire sprinkler head in his cell, triggering an alarm.

Guards Richard D. Leginza and Andrew Keeley responded, ordering Davis to stand with his face against the cell wall while they entered and placed him in handcuffs.

The guards then began escorting Davis toward the exit door of ASU. A lawsuit he later filed alleged that as they approached the door, Keeley, without warning or provocation, “physically slammed the handcuffed Mr. Davis into the wall.”

When the unit’s door opened, Keeley began to yell “stop resisting” despite the fact Davis was still pinned against the wall and not moving or resisting, he said. Another guard, hearing Keeley’s shouts, entered the room, forcibly grabbed Davis, and escorted him out of the unit. He was then violently pushed from behind into the middle of a group of six to ten guards, who rushed him and pinned him against the exit door.

At that point Leginza deployed his Taser on Davis. Keeley ordered Davis to his feet. But the prisoner was unable to comply because the Taser had done its job and stunned him. So, Keeley then dragged Davis across the floor on his knees until another guard said, “hold on let him stand up.”

At this point, although Davis was not resisting, Lezinga again deployed his Taser on the prisoner, causing him “extreme pain and [he] screamed in agony from the electrical shock,” his complaint said. Another guard then interceded and told Keeley to leave Davis alone.

Davis filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on May 4, 2018, accusing the guards of using excessive force in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment guarantee to due process. The complaint also alleged that the treatment Davis received was a pattern and practice of excessive force against persons detained at LCJ because he was allegedly tasered while restrained by two other LCJ guards less than three months later on March 24, 2016.

In their responses to the allegations, Keeley and Lezinga insisted that Davis was resisting them, causing them to believe the first Taser shock had not been properly administered, which is why he was tasered a second time. They also argued that they were entitled to qualified immunity and asked for summary judgment.

The Court reviewed surveillance video footage of the event and determined that Davis was initially resisting the guards—he could be heard taunting them, “You ain’t strong”—so neither the shove Keeley gave him nor the first jolt from Leginza’s Taser was sufficient to support the prisoner’s claims of a violation of his constitutional rights.

But the second time Leginza deployed his Taser, the video evidence that Davis was still resisting was unclear. In the audio, as the guards tell him to stop resisting, the prisoner can be heard to reply, “How the fuck was I resisting on my knees?”

That meant the Court must defer to Davis’ version of the facts and rule in his favor on that portion of his claim, unless the guards were entitled to qualified immunity. Fortunately for Davis, the Seventh Circuit had already decided that using a Taser on a subject who was not resisting was unlawful, so the guard’s claim to qualified immunity failed.

As a result, on March 29, 2021, the Court found in favor of Davis’ claim that the second use of Leginza’s Taser was a violation of his rights. The parties then proceeded to reach their settlement agreement, which incorporated a second suit he’d filed against the two guards involved in the March 2016 tasering he received.

Davis was represented in both suits by attorneys Tonya G. Newman and Gregory G. Forfa of the Chicago firm of Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg. See: Davis v. Leginza, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58744 (N.D. Ill.) and Davis v. Abdeljaber, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58943 (N.D. Ill.). 

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Related legal cases

Davis v. Leginza

Davis v. Abdeljaber