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Sheriff’s Office Brutality Claim Settled For $645,000

© Leesburg Today - 11/03/2015

Seven months after a federal jury awarded an Ashburn man $662,500 in damages in a civil rights lawsuit brought against four Loudoun County deputies, the case concluded with a slightly lower settlement.

The case began Feb. 14, 2010, when Marcus Mial called 911 requesting help in getting a knife away from his wife, who was threatening to harm herself. However, before ending the call, he informed the dispatcher that the issue had been resolved and asked to cancel the response.

According to testimony in federal District Court, Deputy Jennifer Sherin arrived at the home shortly after the call. She was told by the dispatcher that the caller had reported the situation was under control, but knocked on the door and requested to enter the home to check on the occupants. Deputy Nathan Ferguson also arrived on the scene. Mial refused their requests and closed the door.

Concerned about whether they should leave, the deputies contacted their supervisor, Sgt. Kim Holway, who advised them to check on the residents and not allow Mial to close the door on them again. When they returned to the door, Mial, who was making dinner in the kitchen, refused to acknowledge them. As they persisted, Mial called a friend for advice. He then agreed to open the door, keeping his friend on the line to hear what transpired.

There were four deputies on the scene when Mial opened the door again. He complained about the show of force and then the deputies, believing Mial was closing the door, pushed their way in to the home. A struggle ensued with Mial grabbing two deputies and attempting to push them out the door.

""You are not authorized to enter my home,"" Mial repeated twice before another deputy used a Taser to incapacitate him.

Mial was charged with felony assault on two deputies and obstruction of justice.

The charges were thrown out in Loudoun Circuit Court on the grounds that deputies had violated Mial's constitutional rights.

He then filed a federal lawsuit against deputies, alleging they violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure and his 14th Amendment protection against the use of excessive force.

That case moved to trial March 23 and the eight-member jury on March 30 handed down what his attorneys believe to be the largest award for civil rights damages in the federal Eastern District Court.

The jury awarded Mial $225,000 in compensatory damages and $25,000 in punitive damages against Sherin and $225,000 in compensatory damages and $25,000 in punitive damages against Ferguson for unreasonable search and seizure. The jury also awarded Mial $146,000 in damages and $16,500 in punitive damages against Deputy Brian Sayre, the officer who administered the Taser, for the use of excessive force. The fourth deputy named in the lawsuit, Nicholas Altom, was cleared of any liability.

After the trial, Mial's attorneys, Thomas K. Plofchan Jr. and Whitney Lawrimore Hughes of Westlake Legal Group in Sterling, filed motions for attorneys' fees. The defendants appealed the jury's awards.

A settlement in the case resulted in a $645,000 payment to Mial.

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