Jury awards $22M to man who says police locked him in closet
CLEVELAND (AP) — A jury has awarded $22 million to a man who says he was brutally beaten by an East Cleveland police detective, locked in a storage closet with no toilet for four days and given nothing to eat or drink except for a carton of milk.
The Cleveland jury deliberated for a day before finding for Arnold Black, 48, of East Cleveland, in a three-day civil trial. Relatives testified that Black suffers from physical and emotional problems from the beating and had to undergo surgery to remove dried blood on his brain.
In a strange twist, the trial was held without attorneys representing East Cleveland. City Law Director Willa Hemmons, when contacted Wednesday by The Associated Press, said she wasn’t aware that a trial had been held.
She said the trial should have been stopped because of an appeal she had filed with the Ohio Supreme Court and any verdict should be void. A local appeals court twice refused to hear appeals filed by Hemmons on rulings made by Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John Sutula that excluded evidence and witnesses the city had hoped to present at trial. Sutula couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
Black’s attorney, Bobby DiCello, said the judge ordered the trial to proceed because all the parties had been notified.
An East Cleveland police detective said at trial that he had asked a patrol officer to stop Black’s truck on April 28, 2012, because he believed there was a kilogram of cocaine inside, said Black’s attorney, DiCello said.
When no drugs were found, detective Randy Hicks began punching Black in the face and head and patrol officer Jonathan O’Leary held Black upright so that Hicks could continue the beating, Black testified.
Black also testified that the officers put him in the storage closet to hide the severity of his injuries. Black said an East Cleveland jail guard gave him a carton of milk on his second day of confinement and let him use a cellphone to call his girlfriend, who had been searching for him.
Police took Black to the Cuyahoga County Jail on May 2, 2012, and he quickly was freed on bond.
Hicks testified at the civil trial that Police Chief Ralph Spotts confronted him several days after Black’s arrest and forced him to resign. Hicks also testified that Spotts encouraged a culture of violence within the East Cleveland Police Department.
The jury award includes $10 million in compensatory damage against East Cleveland, Hicks, O’Leary and Spotts. It awarded Black $11 million in punitive damages against Spotts and $1 million against O’Leary.
No publicly listed telephone numbers were available for Hicks, Spotts or O’Leary. All have left the East Cleveland Police Department.
East Cleveland provided none of the evidence that DiCello said he requested, including police reports, Hicks’ personnel file or footage from O’Leary’s dashboard camera that he said would have shown the arrest and beating of Black.
Black was indicted by a grand jury on drug possession, criminal tools and tampering with evidence charges. An assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor asked that the case be dismissed in July 2012 because East Cleveland police failed to provide any evidence to support the charges. DiCello said that while Hicks was forced to resign, O’Leary was never punished.
It’s unclear how cash-strapped East Cleveland could pay Black anything as officials there consider filing the state’s first-ever municipal bankruptcy and explore a merger with neighboring Cleveland.