RENO - A federal lawsuit accusing Carson City sheriff's deputies of battering a 78-year-old man while trying to arrest his grandson is scheduled for trial Oct. 17 in U.S. District Court.
Philip Maita died 15 days after the July 13, 1996, incident at his Carson home. The suit filed by his stepson Mark Mattoon accuses deputies Dan Holub and Paul Martino of violating Maita's constitutional rights by using excessive force on him while trying to arrest Duke Maita.
The deputies pushed the elder Maita out of the way as they entered the home. He fell, broke an arm and was knocked unconscious in the scuffle.
According to the federal lawsuit, Maita was unconscious for five days and, "unable to regain his health, on July 28, 1996, Philip Maita died."
But attorneys for the city point out that Maita was in the final stages of leukemia and, according to Carson-Tahoe Hospital, died of respiratory distress syndrome related to that disease and his other health problems.
"What is disputed, however, is the force employed in executing the warrant," according to the court order by U.S. District Judge David Hagen dated Sept. 15, 1999.
In his order, Hagen dismissed portions of the lawsuit involving Sheriff Rod Banister and Carson City itself, but said the allegations of assault and battery and excessive force against the two deputies must be settled by a trial.
According to Maita's wife, Catherine, who has since died as well, and Duke Maita's mother, Phyllis, the deputies used excessive force against a frail 78-year-old man, were violent when they entered the house and refused to get the victim medical help for an excessive length of time after serving the warrant.
"The undisputed facts demonstrate that the 78-year-old Maita dressed in his underwear did not pose a threat to the officers," says Hagen's order.
But the deputies say they tended to Maita, putting him on oxygen and calling promptly for an ambulance.