Lee Sheriff’s Office is Being Sued for Unnecessary Tasering of Innocent Woman

Sarah Graham has been accused of no crime, and the Naples News found no record of criminal history. She was stopped by a deputy-in-training and he asked to search  her. When she responded that she knew her rights and declined to search, the deputy didn’t take it very well. She alleges that she started to leave and he proceeded to Tase her until she collapsed to the ground, and that he tased her again while she lay on the ground convulsing. The deputy, Brian Gardner, was subsequently reprimanded for improper use of non-deadly force, and reassigned from road training to the corrections department.

First, Ms. Graham is absolutely correct. She has a right to decline being searched. While a deputy may engage in a consensual encounter if he has no reasonable suspicion of a crime going on, the key word is consensual. He can only talk to someone as long as they consent to continue the encounter. They  have a right to walk away, and he has a duty to let them go. Cops frequently don’t understand this. The report indicates he was reprimanded for his use of force. Secondly, he should also have been reprimanded for the illegal detention that he attempted. Ms. Graham has a strong suit against the department and Mr. Gardner, though I don’t know if her injuries warrant the maximum, which she is requesting.

A friend who was formerly in law enforcement feels that tasers can be the worst tool available to police. Where high restraint must be used before an officer is justified in using a firearm (deadly force), a much lower bar can be used to argue justification for a taser. That leads to officers overusing the taser, and freqently, as there are often no consequences. I applaud Ms. Graham for seeking to impose consequences for this dereliction of duty.

Nicholas Christie

Nicholas Christie

This lawsuit comes right on the heels of another lawsuit that was just settled by LCSO. They paid a “substantial” unnamed settlement to the family of Nicholas Christie, who was pepper sprayed to death while restrained to a chair in the Lee County Jail. Sheriff Mike Scott indicated that money will be paid by insurance. Both these cases represent substantial legal expenses that find their was from our tax dollars, either through legal fees, insurance premiums, or costly payouts. Both represent failures in training and restraint by the deputies sworn to protect us. Also see the story from a few days ago about the Collier deputy who punched a guy after he surrendered.

http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2013/feb/14/woman-23-accuses-lee-deputy-trainee-of-using-on/

https://crimcourts.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/watch-a-collier-county-deputy-cold-cock-a-suspect-who-had-already-surrendered/

UPDATE: Settlement is for 4 million dollars. See link in the comments…

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5 responses to “Lee Sheriff’s Office is Being Sued for Unnecessary Tasering of Innocent Woman

  1. First, I would argue that the reprimand for the excessive use of force is a reprimand for an unlawful detention, considering that the use of force, especially a taser, is a seizure that must be accompanied by probable cause. Acknowledging the improper use force, the department must be acknowledging the improper seizure that was associated with it.

    Second, I’m not sure I see this as a big time winner for Ms. Graham against the Sheriff’s Office. The deputy was a ‘deputy-in-training’ and after the incident was reprimanded and reassigned into corrections. Certainly past indiscretions by the department are going to hurt, but absent some evidence of a failure of training, the department is probably not overly exposed. It will likely end in settlement because the cost to prove you are right is often significantly higher than paying someone to go away.

    Perhaps she has a case against the deputy, but that’s not likely to be a windfall.

  2. I think legally, the department is as exposed on a trainee as they would be on an experienced veteran. He is an agent of the department, and the fact that he is a trainee or otherwise inexperienced means the department had a duty to supervise him more closely (or train him more before arming him and putting him on the streets). It may reduce his liabilty, if the Department training was inadequate: he might be able to shift some of the fault back on the agency.
    I still think there should be an additional note or reprimand for the illegal detention. It is a separate issue, and a separate right that was being invaded. I think it’s easier for them to identify the use of force, which is why illegal detentions are so common. Even when it doesn’t end in a lawsuit, it can end in cases being thrown out, and the department should educate deputies about it!
    Thanks for the feedback!

  3. I am the owner of Axis Satellite here in SW Florida, and I would just like to say I am glad that the police are stepping up their aggression against criminals. Rights, whatever, dont break the law or be in negative situations, then you have no worry.

    • it appears they are overly aggressive against people that have committed no crime – read the story, maybe your next ! you are happy they they shoot and assault innocent people ? guilty for looking different ? never judge a person by their looks, lcsd is a bunch of thugs !

  4. Pingback: LCSO to Pay 4 Million Dollars in Settlement for Nicholas Christie Death | crimcourts : A Criminal Law Blog

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