PRINCE GEORGE'S COURTS
Woman Awarded $261,000 After Deputies Pepper-Spray, Beat Her
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
A jury in Prince George's County on Monday awarded $261,000 to a woman who said she was pepper-sprayed and punched by sheriff's deputies after they forced their way into her Greenbelt apartment to serve an arrest warrant on a man who was not there.
The jury determined that the two deputies violated Kimberly Jones's constitutional rights, even though they followed sheriff's department protocol.
Jones, 35, wept quietly as the verdict was read in the Upper Marlboro courthouse.
Sheriff Michael Jackson declined to comment through his spokesman, Sgt. Mario Ellis. Sheriff's officials haven't had the opportunity to analyze the decision, Ellis said.
Cary J. Hansel, one of Jones's attorneys, said the verdict means that "law enforcement agencies will have to start paying attention to the training and supervision of their employees. The sheriff's department's training and procedures are such that if you follow them, you will violate the rights of citizens."
The incident that led to the lawsuit occurred about 11:30 a.m. Sept. 15, 2006.
Deputies Billy Falby and Gerald Henderson knocked on the door of Jones's apartment. Jones, who had worked a late shift as a child advocate at a shelter for homeless children, was sleeping and rushed to put on a robe, she testified.
According to trial testimony, when Jones opened the door of her apartment slightly and asked to see the warrant, Falby immediately put his foot in the door and made his way into her apartment. Deputies are trained to do that in case they need to force their way in, Hansel said.
Falby and Henderson did not show Jones the warrant, according to trial testimony. Falby punched Jones, giving her a black eye, according to trial testimony.
Both deputies then pepper-sprayed Jones, according to trial testimony. Falby and Henderson testified that while they were aiming for Jones, they accidentally pepper-sprayed each other.
After the altercation tumbled into the hallway, a neighbor called 911 when she looked through her apartment's peephole and saw Henderson bringing his retractable baton down on Jones, Hansel said. Jones managed to block that blow with her arm, Hansel said.
Jones was charged with assaulting a police officer and other offenses, but neither Falby nor Henderson showed up for court, and the charges were dismissed, Hansel said.
When Jones's employer performed a periodic background check and discovered that Jones was charged with assaulting a police officer, she was fired, Hansel said.
"My father, who is now deceased, taught me to have integrity," Jones said in a brief written statement. "I thank you for justice."
Assistant Attorney General David Moore, who defended the state and the deputies, said he will evaluate the jury's decision before deciding whether to appeal.