The Carson City District Attorney's Office will ask city supervisors Thursday to approve an $85,000 settlement for a Carson man who claimed he was unlawfully arrested and assaulted in 1999 by three sheriff's deputies.
Carson City resident Brian Elder, who was 29 when he and a friend were arrested at the 3000 block of Deer Run Road on Christmas Eve 1999, sued former sheriff candidate Bob Guimont and three other deputies, Sheriff Rod Bannister and the city after he was acquitted of several misdemeanor charges that involved riding a dirt bike too close to homes.
The city denies the allegations, saying the man fought with and kicked officers who were trying to detain him after he refused to give his name.
But by settling the suit, in which Elder alleges his civil rights were violated, the city could avoid paying Elder's attorney fees that could reach $150,000 as mandated by federal law in addition to any awards if it lost the case, said Deputy District Attorney Mark Forsberg.
"We're not conceding the officers did anything wrong," Forsberg said. "It's a form of risk management. It's just unfortunate that the attorney's fees provision of federal law put us in a position where we have to evaluate a case based on attorney's fees, not on the merits of the case."
According to papers filed in December 2001 with the U.S. District Court in Reno, Elder and Tim Dyer, 41, had just finished riding motorcycles when they were approached by one officer, Deputy David Bobbit, about 4:43 p.m. Bobbit was responding to the report by a neighbor of excessive noise.
Dyer reportedly began arguing with the officer, who then called for backup deputies.
At 4:50 p.m., deputies Guimont, Troy Graunke and Mark Marshall arrived. Marshall was dropped from the suit after Elder's attorney conceded they had no claims against him.
Attorneys for Elder say the officers moved toward Elder, handcuffed him, threw him to the ground and repeatedly struck him in the back of the head with their batons and fists, and repeatedly kicked him while he was on the ground and handcuffed.
Elder reportedly received a cut to his head, a chipped vertebrae, neck and back injuries and several abrasions to his face during the struggle. He was arrested, and officers asked for charges of battery of a peace officer, disturbing the peace, obstructing and resisting arrest, and riding a dirt bike within 500 feet of a residence.
He was later acquitted of all charges.
Attorneys Carl Hylin and John Arrascada , both of Reno, claim officers violated Elder's rights under the Fourth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution by using unreasonable seizure and excessive force.
The complaint also alleges officers fabricated criminal charges to cover up their use of excessive force and that Sheriff Banister should have known that both Guimont and Graunke had conduct and disciplinary problems after the department had received previous complaints.
Because personnel matters are not public record, any disciplinary actions taken by the sheriff's department against the officers involved would not be made available, Forsberg said.
U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben denied the city's request to dismiss the case and referred it to a jury trial in May.
"There is evidence in the record independent of testimony that Elder did not disturb the peace or resist arrest and that he was thrown to the ground and struck multiple times by Graunke and Guimont," McKibben wrote.
Officers testified that Elder resisted arrest when they tried to get him on the ground and under control, causing them to force him to do what they asked, according to court filings by the city.
Officers said Elder received a small cut on the back of his head and refused treatment when paramedics were called by officers. He also signed a form at the jail that said no undue force was used against him, according to court papers.
The settlement payment would not be an admission of wrongdoing, Forsberg said. The action is scheduled to be part of the agenda at Thursday's meeting, when supervisors are expected to approve it with other routine city business.
IF YOU GO
What: Carson City Board of Supervisors
When: 8:30 a.m. Thursday
Where: Sierra Room, Carson City Community Center, 851 E. William St.