A 48-year-old North Naples man Tasered while handcuffed in a jail cell after an unlawful arrest in 2005 settled his federal lawsuit against Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk and four deputies for $95,000.
The settlement came a day after the agency’s attorney agreed to a $50,000 settlement in another Taser case involving a teen who died, which deputies blamed on a drug overdose.
U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson signed an order Tuesday, dropping the lawsuit against Rambosk, corporals Dennis Sheridan and Scott Freiburger, Deputy Autumn Brown and Sgt. John Dennison, who was fired and sentenced to probation after he Tasered Robert Franklin Browne in 2005.
Browne denied being combative, only being angry and cursing at Sheridan, Freiburger and Brown for coming into his home on Oct. 5, 2005, after he admitted he’d sideswiped a car and left the scene because he had no cell phone and couldn’t find the driver, who left.
When deputies knocked at the door of Browne’s home on 97th Avenue North, he was upset, his lawsuit says, and deputies came inside, handcuffed him and pulled him outside.
At the patrol car, the lawsuit says, Freiburger Tasered him between the shoulders, causing him to soil his pants, then placed him in the car despite Browne’s pleas to get clean clothing.
After he was booked into the jail, the lawsuit says, Dennison entered the holding cell and Tasered him in the chest as Browne stood at the rear of the cell, his hands cuffed behind his back — clearly not attempting to resist.
He collapsed to the floor, unconscious, as a video camera taped the entire incident.
As a result of the excessive force, the lawsuit says, he suffered broken ribs and a cut to his face.
When he shouted for medical attention, deputies came into the cell and strapped him to a restraining chair, causing additional pain and suffering.
The next day, when he was scheduled for an appearance before a judge, deputies told him they’d lost his paperwork and he’d have to wait another day.
Sheriff’s reports say Browne was Tasered after he resisted arrest and became combative.
“They said I was out of control,” Browne said. “I wasn’t out of control. I was calling them everything in the books, but I wasn’t violent.”
“I said it was unlawful search and seizure,” Browne said he told deputies who wanted to search his truck, prompting Freiburger to Taser him outside his house.
“... After Dennison Tasered me, he kneed me in my back and stood on my back. You can see it on the video.”
Browne had repeatedly refused to accept any plea deals, including a year in prison, contending the video would support his account.
In court, criminal attorney David Agoston demanded the jail cell video, which the sheriff’s office had denied existed.
Once Agoston obtained it, the State Attorney’s Office dropped the charges.
The order dropping the lawsuit was signed after attorney Bruce Jolly of Fort Lauderdale, who represented the sheriff and deputies, and Browne’s attorney, Patrick Geraghty of Fort Myers, signed a stipulation to dismiss the case Tuesday after negotiating a settlement.
“Internal affairs said ... what he did was wrong and fired him,” Geraghty said of Dennison. “We’re hoping that this case gets the department to look at its use of Taser policy.”
Geraghty said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and U.S. Department of Justice say there’s no need to Taser someone who is handcuffed.
After suing the sheriff’s office, he said, he received 37,000 pages of use of force reports; several involving handcuffed inmates were being used in this case.
Jolly couldn’t be reached for comment.
Browne, a construction worker, said he lost time from work due to the injuries, hiring an attorney for his criminal case and a lawsuit, which charged the sheriff and deputies with using excessive force, violating his constitutional rights, unlawful imprisonment, and causing emotional distress.
It also accused then Sheriff Donald Hunter of having a policy of excessive force involving Tasers and failing to train deputies in the use of force.
In June 2008, a judge granted motions by Sheridan and Freiburger to dismiss counts accusing them of false imprisonment and causing emotional distress, and counts accusing Hunter of assault and battery and failing to properly train deputies in the use of force.
Browne admitted he had a felony drug conviction from when he was in his 20s, but has never been violent and only cursed and yelled that day.
“I lost $400,000 and had to refinance my house,” Browne said. “I had five broken ribs and a dislocated finger and a concussion. ... The video exonerated me.”
He was out of work for 10 weeks at a time when he was making $56,000 a year and when he returned, Browne said, he suffered vertigo and fell off a ladder, cracking his ribs again.
He accepted a settlement because his wife “couldn’t take it anymore” after nearly two years in court.
Michelle Batten, a spokeswoman for Rambosk, said the lawsuit involved a former sergeant’s conduct, “which was clearly inappropriate and was inconsistent with CCSO policy.”
“The agency’s policies and procedures are sound and comply with existing law,” Batten said, noting that the sheriff’s Professional Responsibility Bureau investigated and discharged Dennison.
“Sheriff Rambosk takes the investigations of complaints against agency members seriously and has procedures in place to address situations where a member violates established policies and procedures,” she added.
“In addition, CCSO has established a civil review panel made up of community members to review use of force complaints, which provides our community with another layer of oversight.”
Dennison was fired on Aug. 9, 2006, after a nearly six-year career.
On Feb. 5, 2007, Dennison, then 32, pleaded no contest to battery, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to six months of supervised probation, with a condition he complete an anger management course.
Tags: police, deputy, Dennison, cop, holding cell, jail, settlement, Robert Franklin Browne, lawsuit, prison, taser, caught, cam, security, surveillance, cctv, injured
Location: Naples, Florida, United States (load item map)
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