Thursday, March 13, 2008

Woman Signals Plan To Sue, Says Arm Was Broken At Jail

By Josh Poltilove of The Tampa Tribune

TAMPA The attorney for a woman who claims her arm was broken while in Orient Road Jail last year has provided The Tampa Tribune the notice of intent to sue sent to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

Attorney Luke Lirot wrote that the claims are based on "the events that led to the wrongful arrest, unreasonable use of force, and false imprisonment, with resulting pain and suffering and other consequential damages" of his client, Charlana Irving.

Before filing a lawsuit against a government agency, an attorney must give at least six months' notice. Lirot filed the notice Sept. 19.

News of Irving's complaint follows the release of a video last week showing Detention Deputy Charlette Marshall-Jones dropping a quadriplegic man from his wheelchair at the jail. On Wednesday, a woman claimed Marshall-Jones abused her at the jail last month.

On Friday, another woman filed a federal lawsuit claiming a detention deputy pulled her by the hair, slammed her to the ground and punched her in 2006.

"Over the past several days, a number of incidents have been brought to light that reveal the frequent use of excessive force by Hillsborough County detention officers in dealing with inmates," Lirot wrote in a statement today. "In every instance, this apparently far too common practice is being used where the inmates are neither uncooperative nor threatening."

The sheriff's office released a statement Wednesday acknowledging that Irving alleged mistreatment at the jail. Irving, 28, has said a male deputy broke her arm.

On May 9, Irving was arrested on charges of driving under the influence and obstructing an officer. A video shows Detention Deputy Milton Fassett removing Irving from a cell after repeated verbal attempts to calm her failed, the sheriff's office statement says.

As Fassett tried to escort Irving from the cell, she pulled away.

"He used only the force necessary to secure her arm behind her back to gain compliance before he let her out of the cell," the sheriff's office statement said.

Irving was taken to the clinic after complaining about pain in her arm. When it was determined that her left arm was broken, it was placed in a sling. The sheriff's statement says it is not possible to tell whether the broken arm occurred before or after her altercation with the deputy.

Outside her apartment Wednesday, Irving declined to comment, saying her attorney told her not to.

In Lirot's statement, he said maintaining order in detention facilities is critical but with the state's power to use force comes a responsibility to show restraint.

"Rather than try to escape responsibility by asserting defenses or explanations that defy logic, the sheriff's office must accept responsibility for its deputies and must eliminate the use of violence as an option to maintain order," he wrote. "It is critical that more adequate training of those individuals permitted to use force be required. These violations must end if the goal of excellence and professionalism that has always been the goal of Sheriff [David] Gee is to be realized."


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