A Federal Court Jury has ruled against Multnomah County Sheriff's Deputy Richard Hathaway this morning, finding him liable for excessive force and battery related to an altercation with an inmate in the booking area of the county jail in 2006. You can catch up on the case by reading the post I wrote last night.
Nevertheless, the jury only awarded damages of $500 to the plaintiff, Michael Evans. They also found in favor of another Sheriff's Deputy, Robert Griffith, and Portland Police Bureau Officer Ryan Albertson, finding them not liable for excessive force, or battery in the case. A jail sergeant was also cleared of alleged assault for shining a Taser into Evans' eyes.
Evans had been seeking punitive damages of $60,000 against Deputy Griffith, $120,000 against Deputy Hathaway, and $60,000 against Officer Albertson, so the jury's financial award was considerably lower than he had been seeking. Mr.Evans had written to a friend about the case, asking the question, "who wants to be a millionaire?" and had refused a larger offer of settlement in the case from the county, prior to trial.
Evans, who is serving time for two felony convictions dating back to last summer, was led out of the court in leg shackles after the verdict. It is understood he wants to appeal the rulings against him.
"We're pleased with the result," said Assistand County Attorney Carlos Calandriello, after the case had adjourned.
Evans' attorney, Benjamin Haile, declined comment, as did Deputy Hathaway.
"So, do I have to pay the $250?" Hathaway asked County Attorney Stephen Madkour, after the verdict.
"No, we can afford it," Madkour responded.
"My point is, for all this, and all that crap, I'll gladly pay $250," Hathaway told him. "I'm out of here. I'm gonna go home and have a drink."
Two jurors told the Mercury afterward that their verdict was not swayed by the high damages sought by Mr.Evans in the case. "We separated that out," said one—preferring not to be named.
"Our decision basically came down to one thing that we could all agree on," said another juror, who also preferred not to be named. "We all agreed that a blow to the head was excessive force."
An expert's report filed with the court prior to the trial made troubling allegations about jail deputies routinely punching inmates in the head as a control technique.