The Morning Call reports:
Five Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) police officers used excessive force to restrain a man high on crack cocaine who killed a drug dealer with a samurai sword and set him on fire, a federal jury ruled Tuesday night.
The verdict, after four hours of deliberation, stunned officers Matthew Crenko, Matthew Lazur, David Strawn, William Kissner and Louis Csaszar, and surprised Senior U.S. District Judge John P. Fullam, who called it ”remarkable.”
Sonny Thomas claimed he didn’t resist police efforts to handcuff him, but jurors found the officers violated his constitutional rights when they punched and kicked him that night in January 2005.
Thomas, 50, who testified he suffered bruises and recurring migraine headaches as a result of the violent scuffle, sought $35 million in damages but was awarded $1.
The jury found that five other officers named in the suit — Jeremy Alleshouse, John Iatarola, Mark DiLuzio, Moses Miller and Ronald Brazinski — did not use aggressive force or violate Thomas’ Fourth, Fifth and 15th Amendment rights of due process and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.
It’s impossible to sympathize with the defendant’s claims of “bruises and recurring migraine headaches.” And the judge’s comment on the jury’s verdict (“remarkable”) seems to indicate that he disagreed with their decision.
But they awarded the defendant a mere $1, which has to be interpreted as indicating that they believed the police behaved improperly, and felt obliged to rule accordingly, but had no inclination to do anything meaningful for the defendant whatsoever. I would say that Mr. Birkbeck has misreported the story completely. He immediately arouses our indignation at the defendant’s actions, supplies no information supporting the jury’s decision, and simply treats the whole affair as a “man bites dog” bizarre incident. But there was clearly a bit more going on here.