From [HERE] The city has agreed to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed against the police department in 2013 for $97,500.
The lawsuit was filed by resident Derrick Bryant, who alleged several officers illegally performed a cavity search on him and used excessive force while he was in a holding cell at police headquarters following an arrest in 2011. According to police, Bryant was arrested in March 2011 during a drug sting on Hanover Street and was strip-searched after trying to conceal a bag of crack cocaine in his anus.
The $97,500 settlement amount will be paid by Trident Public Risk Solutions, the city’s risk insurance company. In agreeing to the settlement, the city admitted no liability or wrongdoing.
Bryant’s lawsuit alleged current and former officers, including John Slezak, Kenneth Egan, and four others, used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.
The lawsuit went to trial, and in April 2016 a six-member jury ruled the officers did not improperly conduct the cavity search. The ruling, however, was overturned by U.S. District Court Judge Stefan Underhill, who said the jury failed to consider the fact that Bryant was tased at least once while being held in the holding cell handcuffed.
Both parties testified at the trial that officer John Slezak tased Bryant at least one time in the holding cell after Bryant had been tackled to the ground by Slezak and another officer. Video showed that Bryant was tased while handcuffed as two additional officers entered the cell to assist in pinning him down in an effort to remove a bag of cocaine from Bryant’s anus.
"Like other courts before me, I hold as a matter of law that it was clearly established in March 2011 that officers could not employ a significant degree of force, such as a taser, against a suspect who was handcuffed, surrounded by multiple officers, in a police station holding cell, and who did not pose either a threat to the officers or a threat of escape," Underhill wrote in his ruling, adding the jury’s decision was a “seriously erroneous” result justifying a new trial.
Slezak and Egan, the two officers present at the time of the tasing, sought a review based upon qualified immunity, but Underhill concluded Egan and Slezak are not entitled to "qualified immunity on that claim," according to court records. The jury's findings on the other four officers stand, according to court records.
Meriden Police appealed the order for a new trial, which was rejected 3-0 by a federal appeals court. The city opted to settle the case rather than going through with a new trial. The settlement agreement, recently approved by the City Council, states that the city admits no liability or wrongdoing.
Federal authorities have since arrested Bryant and 13 other suspects on drug charges as part of a sting in July 2017.
City Attorney Deborah Moore said the city’s insurance deductible of $50,000 for the case “was paid long ago,” so “the expenses incurred after that, including this settlement, were paid by the insurance company.”