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TASERED CYCLIST SETTLES CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUIT

By: Steve Magas, July 17, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FROM:  STEVE MAGAS, The Bike Lawyer

TASERED CYCLIST SETTLES LAWSUIT

On August 19, 2008, bicyclist Anthony Patrick, from Huntington, West Virginia, was Tasered by Lawrence County, Ohio Deputy Charles Hammonds and Chesapeake Police Department Dennis Gibson.  Patrick was riding his bicycle with another rider when Deputy Hammonds told Patrick to get off the road.  Patrick told Hammonds he had as much right to be on the road as the deputy.  A series of events unfolded thereafter which ended with Patrick be Tasered, arrested and charged with a series of “crimes” including “Riding a Bicycle on the Roadway,” resisting arrest, failing to obey a lawful order and other crimes.

Patrick retained a criminal lawyer and fought the criminal charges, filing a Motion to Dismiss.  After a hearing at which Deputy Hammonds was the only witness, the court issued a written opinion holding that the Deputy’s order to stop was “unlawful” as Patrick had done nothing wrong.  The court pointed out that cyclists have the right to use the roads and are permitted by law to ride side by side.  While the court stated that cyclists should act courteously towards other traffic, cyclists riding two abreast do not legally have to move to a single file line or otherwise give way to motorized traffic and it was improper for Deputy Hammonds to order Patrick off the road.  The Court also reaffirmed the landmark holding of Trotwood v. Selz, finding that a bicycle being operated at a reasonable speed for a bicycle is not “impeding traffic.”  After the Court’s ruling in Patrick’s favor, the Prosecuting Attorney dismissed all charges against Patrick.

Steve Magas, The Bike Lawyer, represented Tony Patrick in a civil rights lawsuit filed against Deputy Hammonds, Officer Gibson, the Sheriff, the Police Chief and the City of Chesapeake in the United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio, Western Division.  This case, Patrick v. Lawless, et al., included claims of excessive force, negligence, assault and battery, false arrest and false imprisonment, seeking compensatory and punitive damages.  Defendants denied liability and discovery proceeded, including the taking of several key depositions, and it was learned that key evidence – including a videotape from the scene of the Tasering -  had never been provided to Patrick’s criminal or civil lawyers.

All parties reported to the United States Federal District Courthouse in Cincinnati for a Settlement Conference with Judge Barrett on July 1, 2010.  Following several hours of negotiations, a settlement was reached.  While the settlement figure is confidential, Tony Patrick was very pleased with the outcome and feels justice was done.

Printed from: http://www.ohiobikelawyer.com/uncategorized/2010/07/tasered-cyclist-settles-civil-rights-lawsuit/ .
© 2014.

17 Comments   »

  • danc says:

    A sad road to justice, congrats to Mr Patrick. I’m sure he rather just ride his bike then path to this settlement.

  • aar says:

    I hope there were serious repercussions for the deputy and even for the police who arrived on the scene to further subjugate the cyclists. While reading the story I had this vision in my head of this deputy as Farva a la Super Troopers going crazy. While entertaining on screen, the thought of that occurring in real life is horrifying and the truth is,not all people we hire to uphold the law are that familiar with it from a legal standpoint. I have no idea how I would react, and that’s scary. I’d be concerned for my life. Again, I hope the deputy was severely punished if not fired.

  • Lee says:

    I’m sure Tony Patrick got beaucoup bucks out of the settlement, but true justice would’ve been for Deputy ‘Porkchip’ Hammond to be fired.

    To call him a moron would be an insult to morons, sad to say.

    Anyways, way to go Tony, you won in the end, but it should’ve never have gone this far. Some cops are heroes, but others are ignorant idiots who have no business wearing the badge.

  • Peter Reck says:

    I think an appropriate settlement could have included the follow:

    1) Making the officers travel to a specified number (12+) of other municipal jurisdictions (on their own nickel), within a 200 mile radius, and within a schedule time frame (12 months), to present current bike laws and educate Sheriff and local police as to the laws and rights pertaining to bikers in the state.

    2) Reassigning the officers to perform their duty serving the public at least 60% of their time from the seat of a bicycle for at period of at least 5 months during the next 12 consecutive month period of employment.

    3) items 1 and 2 above in addition to any other settlement to the citizen whose rights were violated, and if not completed and reported in public documents as being completed, to be extended for an addition term, repeating the each item as specified.

  • Kevin Milam says:

    Go Tony!

  • Adam says:

    Can a settlement be confidential even if taxpayers are paying it?

    Voters in Chesapeake and Lawrence County should know how much they’re ending up paying for the actions of their incompetent employees, Charles Hammond and Dennis Gibson.

  • Steve Magas says:

    Adam, excellent question. I suspect that if you search public records you can find out the amount. I don’t believe a county CAN settle a suit and keep it confidential from taxpayers. So I suspect an FOIA or other public records request might to get the info you seek. However, I cannot, per the terms of the agreement, give out the figure.

    These “confidentiality” clauses are all the rage in goofy or bad cases and esp in police shooting or excessive force cases. The defendants don’t want you to know what had to be paid, yet every settlement agreement I’ve seen or drafted contains a clause that says, in essence, even though we’re paying money, there is no conclusion to be drawn about guilt or liability… we are just settling a disputed claim… and that is frequently true… it’s an accounting decision sometimes… i.e., it’s gonna cost $X to fight this and if we lose, the possible outcomes are from $1 – $1,000,000 so if we can settle for less than our defense costs, it makes sense to do it… regardless of the risk of loss… Sometimes, though, it’s a payment to make sure that the facts of the case simply never come to light…

    Both sides have risk in any lawsuit… the plaintiff could spend four years in court, weaving through the system and spending tens of thousands of dollars only to lose… the defense could spend a ton of money on legal fees and experts and lose, both in the court and in the eyes of the public. There are no slam dunks in lawsuits and there is frequently a LOT to be gained, emotionally and financially, by both sides by simply getting deal done …good lawyers on both sides recognize this… that’s why probably 95+% of cases settle… it’s a tiny percentage of cases that actually get all the way through a trial to a verdict… very very small…

  • Tony says:

    I’m very happy to see Tony won his case and was awarded a nice amount. I live in the NYC area, and I usually go riding in Long Island where all the other cyclist are riding. We ride on the major roadway with all the cars, and majority of all cars are very friendly towards the cyclists. The cops never bother the cyclists even if they are in a group with 50 cyclists.

  • Steve Magas says:

    Thanks for tracking me down! Yes, Tony won. He was lucky, really. Lucky he wasn’t killed. Lucky he had a helmet on when the Taser stood him up and sent his head crashing into the pavement. Lucky he had a judge who understood cycling and cycling legal issues. Lucky he doesn’t have a felony conviction. I would recommend Tony’s approach for everyone but he really did ALL cyclists a service here by standing up against a cop whose view of cycling was “Get Off The F$*%ing Road!”

  • Matt says:

    Steve,
    First off, thank you for your work on behalf of cyclists and especially for the work you did for Tony. Thanks as well for posting this, since I had not heard any update since Bob Mionske’s original Bicycling column years ago.

    I fully understand the reasons for the confidentiality clause and for your inability to breach it. Other posters have already touched on a core issue, however, that appears unaddressed: What about Deputy Hammonds? His apparent hatred for cyclists could have repercussions for other cyclists, as well as his apparent willingness to play fast and loose with both written reports and testimony and to ignore statutory limits on his authority. This is a dangerous person to have entrusted with this level of authority.

  • Steve Magas says:

    As far as I know, Deputy Hammonds works as a Deputy for Lawrence County. He hadn’t, by his own admission, done all that much traffic cop work prior to this… I don’t know if he got a medal or a reprimand for this case – I do know that the folks from Lawrence County were not, in all likelihood, all that happy about driving to U.S. District Court in Cincinnati from the southeast corner of the county for court events…

  • Noah Daly says:

    Amazing story. Is there a network of bicycle lawyers in different states in case people not in Ohio might need services of a lawyer with your expertise in this area.

  • Steve Magas says:

    If you have need for a “Bike Lawyer” in another state give me a call. There is no formal “network” but I email regularly with folks from all over the country on this stuff!

  • Russ Pinney says:

    Don’t really have anything of value to add here except to say how gob-smacked I am by the circumstances surrounding the case, of which I just read. I live in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where cyclists rule – bicycle cops are completely normal and heaven help any motorist who doesn’t respect cyclists. Hard for me to comprehend how this shit can happen. Good on you, and keep up the good fight!

  • Steve Magas says:

    Thanks for checking in! Fortunately, the Taser case was rare – but the competency of Law Enforcement varies from city to city – urban to rural -

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