On Jan. 5, a federal court jury rendered a verdict against an Evanston police officer on a claim that the officer used excessive force in the process of arresting the plaintiff, a Palatine man, on April 5, 2010. The verdict was for $2,300. The jury found in favor of the police officer and two other police officers on all other claims in the lawsuit, including a claim for punitive damages.
According to the plaintiff’s attorney, Basileios J. Foutris, the plaintiff, testified he was driving a friend, a resident of Evanston, home from work on April 5, 2010. According to a court opinion, a police officer attempted to make a traffic stop of the plaintiff after determining that there was an active warrant outstanding for his arrest for driving while his license was suspended.
The plaintiff testified he noticed a squad car was following him when he was driving near Evanston Township High School, and he decided to pull over on his own. As he was pulling over, the squad car’s lights were turned on. After stopping his car, the plaintiff testified, he exited his car and began to run north on Dodge Avenue and then east on Davis Street.
According to a court opinion, police officers in a second squad car arrived at the scene, and police from that squad car began to chase the plaintiff, yelling, “Police. Stop running. You’re under arrest.” The plaintiff testified he stopped running because he thought he could not get away, and he put his hands in the air.
The plaintiff testified he was tackled and then handcuffed while he was on the ground. He said he was not resisting, when one of the officers punched him once on the left ear, rupturing his eardrum. The complaint alleged that police used excessive force in the process of the arrest and sought relief under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act.
According to the City’s court filings, the police officers disputed tackling the plaintiff, testifying that the plaintiff refused to present his hands to the officers for handcuffing and otherwise ignored their commands. The City’s court filings also say the plaintiff struggled with the police leading up to the use of force.
In an earlier criminal proceeding in state court, the plaintiff pled guilty to resisting arrest, and he was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest in state court. Federal Court Judge Amy J. St. Eve barred police from introducing the conviction into evidence in the federal trial on grounds it did not show whether the plaintiff resisted the arrest forcibly or whether he was resisting at the time the officers were alleged to have used excessive force.
In an email, Grant Farrar, corporation counsel for the City of Evanston, told the RoundTable, “The City continues to believe that the minor injury to [the plaintiff] while resisting arrest resulted from a legally proper use of force, and is considering whether to appeal.”
Mr. Farrar added, “The City’s Law Department represented the City in this cause, such that no outside legal fees were incurred in obtaining this successful outcome.”