An unemployed veteran who testified that he was knocked unconscious and lost four teeth when he was hit with a billy club by two D.C. police officers was awarded $207,500 in damages yesterday by a federal jury.
Stanley Wiggins, 28, of 4914 Seventh St. NW said during a five-day trial at U.S. District Court here that the officers assaulted and falsely arrested him and violated his constitutional rights.
The two officers, James Whitaker Jr., 35, a 15-year veteran, and Gerry Scott, 28, a three-year veteran, were assigned to the 4th Police District. A police spokesman said last night that no decision had been made yet on whether to place the two officers on administrative leave after the verdict.
At the trial the two officers denied using excessive force and said the billy club was used only after Wiggins acted boisterously, resisted arrest for disorderly conduct and bit one of the officers in the finger. The police said Wiggins struggled with them again at the station house and had to be subdued.
Wiggins denied biting or struggling with the policemen. He said he had spoken to them loudly only after they ignored his request to call an ambulance after he told them that a dog had bitten him on the leg.
He said the officers beat him with the billy club at his house, where he lives with his parents, and later at the police station. He said police also kicked him in the mouth.
After the incident, which occurred on Jan. 22, 1983, Wiggins said he was hospitalized for a week and is still suffering from injuries to his ear and psychological trauma. He was charged with assaulting a police officer.
Last December Wiggins' trial on the assault charge ended with a hung jury at D.C. Superior Court. When the case came up again there last month it was dismissed because prosecutors were not ready to present it.
The defendants in Wiggins' civil suit in U.S. District Court originally included the District government and Police Chief Maurice Turner. But Judge Oliver Gasch dismissed the charges against them on the grounds that the complaint, filed by attorney Joan Harvill, failed to show a policy or pattern condoning excessive use of force by police officers.
Neither Harvill nor D.C. Corporation Counsel Mabel Chu, who defended the officers, would discuss the case yesterday.
The federal court jury of five women and one man deliberated about six hours before reaching a verdict. Unlike criminal trial procedure, they were not asked to decide on a list of specific charges but gave only one verdict on the accusations against the officers. The jury awarded Wiggins $200,000 against both defendants, $5,000 in punitive damages against Whitaker, and $2,500 in punitive damages against Scott.
According to police records, no departmental charges were ever brought against either of the police officers because their supervisors concluded that they had used reasonable force.