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False arrest, beating claims settled for $500K

A Baltimore grandfather who was beaten while in jail with his wife on allegedly trumped-up charges of kidnapping their grandchild will receive $500,000 from the city under an out-of-court settlement approved last week.

Aubrey Knox suffered renal failure and must receive regular dialysis treatments because of the pummeling he sustained from fellow detainees at Baltimore’s Central Booking and Intake Facility five years ago, according to the $11 million lawsuit the Knoxes filed against four Baltimore police officers in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. The Baltimore City Board of Estimates approved the settlement at its regular meeting Wednesday.

“We were responsible for putting him in a place where he was put in harm’s way,” Baltimore City Solicitor George A. Nilson said Friday.

“We should not have arrested him, clearly, based on our assessment of the information that was available at the time he was arrested,” Nilson added. “He got harmed pretty seriously. That’s why we settled the case. It would not have been a pretty picture in a trial. It was hard for us to imagine a decision in the case other than ‘you’re liable.’”

Knox and his wife, Lena, were arrested in September 2007 at the direction of an officer they alleged knew they did not kidnap their grandchild, because the 6-year-old was residing lawfully in Virginia with their son, the father, under a custody arrangement with the mother.

Sgt. Gregory Eames, as part of a plan with the mother, accused the grandparents of kidnapping in an effort to get the father to bring the child to the mother, according to the lawsuit.

The plan, in which other officers participated, included an arrest-warrant affidavit that falsely accused the Knoxes of the kidnapping, the lawsuit alleged.

At 7:15 a.m. on Aug. 10, 2007, two officers went to the house based on the mother’s 911 call that the Knoxes had kidnapped her child. The officers, with the Knoxes’ permission, entered the house and searched extensively before concluding the child was not there, according to the complaint.

A few hours after those officers left, Eames arrived, questioned the Knoxes and insisted they retrieve their grandchild from their son and give the youngster to the mother or face arrest, the complaint stated.

Eames called for backup; the officers re-examined the house and again concluded the child was not there.

The subsequent affidavit for an arrest warrant contained “fabrications, falsehoods and misleading statements,” according to the lawsuit. For example, the affidavit said that officers had discovered the child was abducted, the complaint said.

The arrest warrant was issued for the couple on charges of kidnapping. They were brought to Central Booking and placed in holding cells.

The complaint alleged that “during the night, Aubrey Knox was savagely beaten by other inmates while under the care and responsibility of the defendants and as a result he suffered serious and permanent injury to his head, face, arms, eyes and body, and in particular his kidneys.”

As a result, Knox “can anticipate a shortened life span,” the lawsuit added.

The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office ultimately chose not to prosecute the Knoxes.

In addition to Eames, the named defendants were detectives William Epperson and April Fullwood-Jackson and officer Stacy D. Plater. The four officers, who admitted no wrongdoing, are still with the Baltimore Police Department, department spokesman Jeremy Silbert stated in an email Friday.

The complaint, filed May 25, 2010, alleged battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, violations of federal and state civil rights laws, and loss of consortium.

The Knoxes had sought $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.

Their attorneys, Timothy M. Dixon and Emanuel M. Levin, did not return telephone messages seeking comment Friday afternoon.

Dixon and Levin each head small Baltimore law firms that bear their names.

KNOX ET AL. V. EPPERSON ET AL.

Court:

U.S. District Court, Baltimore

Case No.:

1:10-cv-01341-GLR

Judge:

George Levi Russell III

Outcome:

$500,000 settlement for Plaintiffs

Dates:

Event: August-September 2007

Suit filed: May 25, 2010

Settlement: Sept. 12, 2012

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys:

Timothy M. Dixon of the Law Offices of Timothy M. Dixon in Baltimore and Emanuel M. Levin of Emanuel M. Levin & Associates PA in Baltimore.

Defendants’ Attorneys:

Lindsay Cohn Cooper of the City of Baltimore Legal Affairs Division, Michael L. Marshall of Schlachman, Belsky & Weiner PA in Baltimore and Troy A. Priest of Wong Fleming in Baltimore.

Counts:

Battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, violations of federal and state civil rights laws.