Donald Neiman, a West Virginia horse farmer, hired a lawyer and sued the city of Alexandria last month, claiming he was the victim of police brutality after he was arrested for getting in a fight in an Old Town bar.
Neiman, 32, of Harpers Ferry, and his attorney thought the legal fight was just beginning.
This week they found out Alexandria officials had a surprise ending in store: The city never filed any court papers responding to the charges.
Late Thursday, U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. signed a default judgment against Alexandria, setting Oct. 7 for a jury trial to determine how much money Neiman should get. His suit indicated that $510,000 sounds about right to him.
"I'd like to know, too -- they just didn't answer," says Neiman's lawyer, Frederick W. Ford of Alexandria.
Mayor Charles E. Beatley believes he has a partial explanation. The paperwork simply vanished into those mysterious bureaucratic channels.
"I was served the court papers and expressly sent them to the city manager's office. They were to go from there to the city attorney. They never got there, and we didn't discover it until 4:30 tonight," says Beatley in the weary tones of a part-time mayor dealing with full-time bureaucrats.
Court documents served on Alexandria Police Chief Charles T. Strobel were supposed to go to City Attorney Cyril D. Calley, too, says Beatley. They were sent instead to the city's insurance company.
Which insurance company? "I don't know," says the mayor.
For his part, Calley did not return a reporter's telephone calls yesterday.
According to the suit -- which names as defendants police officers Steve Thompson and Andrew Chelchowski, a third, unidentified officer, Chief Strobel and the city -- Neiman was involved in a fight Feb. 6 with an employe of Murphy's Pub, 713 King St.
After police showed up, Neiman was taken by the officers to police headquarters and charged with assault and battery and public drunkenness. While there, the suit says, Neiman, hands cuffed behind his back, was pushed by police who were escorting him up a flight of stairs.
One of the officers allegedly pulled up on Neiman's hands and arms, causing him pain and prompting Neiman to tell police to "take it easy," according to court documents.
The suit contends police then started hitting Neiman with their nightsticks on his left side, back, left leg, left arm and elbow and in the mouth. Neiman's handcuffs were removed and he was left in a cell for "several hours" without medical attention for his injuries, according to the suit.
Neiman, who was arrested at about 9 p.m., finally was released on bond about 3 a.m. and taken by friends to the emergency room at Alexandria Hospital, where he was treated for a broken arm, cuts and bruises.
Neiman's lawyer said yesterday Neiman was convicted of the assault and drunkenness charges and paid fines of $50 and $25 respectively. A separate charge of assaulting a police officer was dismissed after Thompson ignored a subpoena and did not appear in court, Ford said.