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City settles police misconduct suit for $30K

Baltimore’s Board of Estimates approved a $30,000 payment to settle an excessive force lawsuit filed by a 33-year-old city man who claimed he was beaten and jailed by police after he called in a domestic abuse complaint.

The board approved the settlement at its weekly meeting on Wednesday. Since mid-2007, misconduct lawsuits filed against the Baltimore Police Department have resulted in judgments and settlements in excess of $8 million.

Christiansen Threatt filed the lawsuit against Baltimore Police Officer Lawrence J. Smith Jr. on April 8, 2010, in Baltimore City Circuit Court. Threatt originally sought $1 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages on counts of assault, battery, excessive force, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

Threatt’s attorney, John R. Sutherland of Sutherland & Brinster P.A. in Columbia, was not available for comment on Friday.

According to Threatt’s lawsuit, on July 9, 2009, he called in a domestic dispute at his Maryland Avenue residence. He said officers arrived and asked him for identification.

Threatt claimed his wallet was grabbed when he showed his ID, and when he objected, he was thrown to the floor, and then Smith kicked and punched him while he was on the ground. Threatt was arrested, handcuffed, and taken to the city’s central booking facility.

City Solicitor George A. Nilson said last week that officers actually received two calls reporting domestic abuse at the residence, one from Threatt and the other from a woman living there. Nilson said the woman told police there was a weapon involved and that she had been struck with the belt buckle. Nilson said Threatt assumed police were responding to his call when they arrived, and did not know a second call had been made.

Threatt alleged in his lawsuit that he asked to go to the hospital and was denied. While in line at central booking, Threatt vomited blood and was taken to Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. Upon discharge, he was taken back to central booking.

According to the complaint, Threatt continued to vomit blood after he was booked and put into a cell. He was held for two days before he was able to make bail. Threatt was charged with one count of second-degree assault, which was later nolle prossed, according to court records.

Threatt alleged he suffered injuries from the assault, including a fracture to the orbital bone of his left eye and an increased sensitivity to light.

In 2011, verdicts and settlements resolving lawsuits alleging misconduct by Baltimore police officers have cost the city more than $900,000. On July 21, the Board of Estimates signed off on a $100,000 settlement to end a lawsuit brought by a 65-year old Baltimore man who alleged he was beaten by officers who thought the cigarette he was hand-rolling outside his home was a marijuana joint.

CHRISTENSEN THREATT V. LAWRENCE J. SMITH JR.

Court:

Baltimore City Circuit

Case No.:

24C10002926

Dates:

Incident: July 9, 2009

Suit filed: April 8, 2010

Settlement: Aug. 10, 2011

Plaintiff’s Attorney:

John R. Sutherland of Sutherland & Brinster P.A. in Columbia

Defendant’s Attorney:

Michael Marshall of Schlachman, Belsky & Weiner P.A. in Baltimore

Counts:

Assault, battery, excessive force, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution