Youngstown responds to excessive police force claim - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

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Youngstown responds to excessive police force claim

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - This month a federal judge found there was enough evidence for a lawsuit to proceed against the city of Youngstown based on alleged civil rights violations by police. 

Now the city has fired back in a court filing, and is asking the judge to dismiss the case.

The city of Youngstown wants the judge to consider more information, and dismiss a lawsuit against the city and it's police department. 

That lawsuit was brought by Desiree Johnson who claims an incident that put her in jail in 2012 for assaulting two Youngstown police officers stemmed from a history of problems with YPD.

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.

In allowing the case to go forward, U.S. District Court Judge Benita Pearson wrote that the city's "consistent failure to properly conduct an investigation or take disciplinary action suffices to demonstrate it's deliberate indifference towards the federally protected rights of it's inhabitants."

In a motion asking the judge to dismiss the suit, Youngstown denied any policy or practice of violating the rights of citizens.

To support it's motion, the city provided details about an internal investigation into complaints made by Desiree Johnson and Dorthea Weston against Captain Kevin Mercer and Patrick Mulligan for a March 30th. 2011 traffic stop.

The assertions include:

  • Internal Affairs outlined and submitted it's interviews of five potential witnesses. One of the witnesses say they saw Johnson struggling and kicking the officers.
  • The medical records for the dates Johnson and Weston were booked into the Mahoning Jail showed neither Johnson or Weston was treated for injuries.
  • The video from the booking area of the Mahoning County Jail showed officer Mercer being treated for injuries, not the women.
  • Rural Metro documents noted Johnson was not injured and refused medical treatment 3 times.
  • The city also submitted Johnson and Weston's complaints and efforts to obtain Civil Protection Orders, that were denied by a magistrate and Judge.

Statements by both women and both officers denying any wrong doing were also included.  

Judge Pearson is expected to make a ruling before the case goes to trial April 21st.

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