A Federal Court jury yesterday rejected a West Virginia man's claim that an Alexandria police officer violated his civil rights by using excessive force during his arrest and booking after a melee last year outside an Old Town pub.
The jurors awarded $250 in damages to the plaintiff, Donald P. Neiman of Harpers Ferry, on a separate claim alleging assault and battery by Alexandria Patrolman Stephen J. Thompson.
The jurors deliberated for a total of seven hours Thursday and yesterday and twice returned to the Alexandria courtroom for additional instructions from U.S. District Judge Richard L. Williams before returning their verdict at 2:40 p.m.
According to testimony during the three-day trial, Neiman and two friends had been drinking for several hours at Murphy's Pub, 713 King St., last Feb. 6 when they were asked to leave by the management. A fight involving a pub employe ensued and police were summoned.
Neiman, 33, testified that Thompson struck him in the leg with a flashlight outside the pub. As he was being booked at police headquarters, Neiman said he was also struck with a "long, dark object," hit in the mouth with his own boot and choked unconscious by Alexandria police officer Michael Shanahan.
Neiman suffered several bruises and a chip fracture in his left elbow during the incident, according to testimony.
Thompson acknowledged striking Neiman with a seven-cell, police-issue flashlight and with a blackjack, but denied he intended to strike Neiman with the boot. "In each incident, Neiman was the aggressor," Thompson said. "I was merely protecting myself."
Thompson said Neiman appeared to be intoxicated and was verbally abusive at the time.
Williams dismissed a claim for punitive damages and removed Shanahan as a defendant before sending the case to the jury. The City of Alexandria and Police Chief Charles T. Strobel also were dropped as defendants in the suit several weeks ago.