Attorneys for the city of Laurel have agreed to pay $400,000 to settle a federal civil lawsuit filed by a man whose leg was broken while he was handcuffed and in the custody of Laurel police officers, attorneys said.
The out-of-court settlement ends the lawsuit filed by Jaime Vales, 28. Vales's right femur, the strongest bone in the body, was broken in two on July 20, 2000. Vales was arrested that night after a quarrel with his girlfriend at their apartment. He was pepper-sprayed by police and, on the way to the police cruiser, Vales said, an officer threw him to the ground and stomped on his leg.
The lawsuit was settled Friday. The civil trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday.
"Although liability was hotly contested, the plaintiff had legitimate, serious injuries," said Daniel Karp, the attorney for the Laurel Police Department. "It seemed prudent to resolve the lawsuit."
The two officers named as defendants in the lawsuit, Detective John C. Sims Jr. and Officer Jeffrey Van Cleave, did not return phone calls seeking comment. Karp said no witnesses reported seeing any officers use excessive force.
In June 2001, a Circuit Court jury acquitted Vales of resisting arrest but convicted him of assaulting his girlfriend the night his leg was broken. That conviction, along with a conviction for destruction of property, as overturned by the Court of Special Appeals because of a judicial error.
The events that led to Vales's broken leg began with an argument between him and his girlfriend at the time, Naomi Kim-Clark.
During the quarrel, Vales grabbed her wrists, forced her to the ground, and grabbed her hair, Kim-Clark testified. When Vales let go, Kim-Clark fled to a neighbor's home and called police.
Sims and Van Cleave testified that they arrived to find Vales in the bedroom of the apartment, talking on the phone.
When Vales refused orders to put down the phone, Sims said he pepper-sprayed him. Van Cleave testified that he and Sims handcuffed Vales and walked him outdoors, where three or four other Laurel officers were waiting.
Vales testified that one of the officers threw him to the ground and his leg was stomped so hard that it broke. Sims and Van Cleave testified that they didn't know how Vales's leg was broken.