Federal jury rules for city in courthouse battery case
A Carson City woman injured during an arrest at the courthouse lost her federal civil suit Wednesday against the city and court bailiff who took her into custody.
Tonya Brown was with a group of protesters outside the Carson City Courthouse in July 2002 when she entered the building saying she needed to sit down because her back hurt.
Protesters were trying to force the release of grand jury records of a separate investigation, but the demonstration occurred during the Rocky Boice murder trial when tensions were high.
Bailiffs told her to remove the protest sign and refused her permission to sit on a bench inside. She testified she was just asking why she couldn’t sit down for a while.
They said she argued with them repeatedly until they told her to leave or face trespass charges. When she continued to argue, bailiff Roy Eddings said, he arrested her.
Brown filed a complaint saying she was injured by Eddings during the arrest and suffered injuries including nerve problems in her back and neck that required extensive treatment and therapy.
She took the case to federal district court after her complaint was rejected in Carson City. She charged Eddings deliberately manhandled her, driving her head into the floor and wrenching her back and shoulder during the arrest. Her lawsuit accused him of assault and battery as well as violating her civil rights.
She testified she has suffered continual pain in her neck and back since the arrest.
Eddings and other witnesses for the city denied any abuse of Brown during the arrest. Reno attorney Tom Beko, representing Carson City, said Brown’s primary physical evidence was bruising on her arms and, he said, evidence showed she suffers from a disease that causes her to bruise easily.
After she was cuffed, Beko said, Eddings and one other officer picked her up from the floor by her arms.
“Even her own physician testified that could have caused the bruises,” he said.
He said the arrest was justified.
“She was told eight to 10 times to leave the area but she kept arguing, kept pressing it,” Beko said.
After a week-long trial before U.S. District Judge Ed Reed, the six-person civil jury Wednesday rejected her claims.
Beko said the jury “obviously didn’t believe her” and denied her any damages.
Brown said after the verdict her credibility might have been hurt because the sequence of events made it appear she went from the courthouse to the Nevada Appeal for publicity. She said that isn’t true but that it gave the impression she was trying to set up a lawsuit.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.