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Judge says Youngstown police violate rights

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - A federal judge outlined in a recent 20 page ruling what she calls a pattern of the city of Youngstown tolerating federal rights violations from police officers.

The ruling means the case will go to trial in federal court.

Desiree Johnson of Youngstown went to jail for assaulting two Youngstown police officers in 2012.

But Johnson said that incident stemmed from a history of problems with one of those officers. So she sued the city for federal rights violations.

Now a federal judge is saying her allegations have merit.

Johnson claims in 2009 that three officers used excessive and unreasonable force to search her then 12-year-old son without just cause.

She says Officer Kevin Mercer quote, "Reached down the boys shorts, down his crack to his groin."

Count two of her federal lawsuit claims the police department continually allows officers to use such excessive force of young African American males without existence of probable cause.

The city's attorneys asked the federal judge to make a ruling on count two claiming Johnson has provided no evidence to prove that claim.

But a recent judgment by Judge Benita Pearson says there is enough evidence.

The judgment sites several citizen complaints involving Officer Mercer and in each case the city, according to the judge, showed, quote, "consistent failure to properly conduct an investigation or take disciplinary action suffices to demonstrate its deliberate indifference towards the federally protected rights of its inhabitants."

The judge also said, looking at Mercer's personnel file, there seemed to be a pattern of federal rights violations that the city tolerated.

She refers to one such incident in 2007 involving Mercer and calls the limited focus of the city investigation into that particular incident "alarming."

The city and Johnson's attorney did not return our calls for comment.

Her civil case against the city goes to trial on April 21st.

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