Pr. George's settles police brutality lawsuit
A civil lawsuit alleging that a Prince George's County police officer beat a young man outside a nightclub without provocation and then collaborated with another officer to falsely charge the man was settled Monday afternoon after attorneys for both sides delivered opening arguments in Circuit Court in Upper Marlboro.
The civil trial in the lawsuit, filed by Robert L. Scott Jr., 22, was just getting going when Scott decided to accept a $100,000 settlement offer from the county.
"I'm satisfied with the settlement because my client is happy," said Terrell N. Roberts III, the Riverdale attorney who represented Scott. "He feels he was justly compensated for the wrong that was done to him."
Scott was assaulted by county police Cpl. Kenneth Goodwin outside the Crossroads nightclub in Bladensburg shortly after 1 a.m. on Dec. 27, 2007, according to the lawsuit.
Scott, of the District, had gone to the nightspot with friends from high school.
Scott, who was 20 at the time, did not drink during the evening, Roberts said, adding that Scott does not drink at all.
When Scott walked to the car of a friend who was going to drive him home, the lawsuit said, Goodwin, dressed in his police uniform, ordered Scott to get into the car. Scott replied that he was waiting for his friend to open the car's doors. The friend arrived and opened the doors, and Scott saw another friend nearby and stepped to him to shake hands before returning to the car, the lawsuit alleged.
Goodwin suddenly hit Scott in the back of the head with his metal police baton, the lawsuit alleged. Scott staggered forward and turned to see Goodwin, who pushed his face, extended the baton and swung it at Scott's face, the lawsuit alleged.
Scott raised his left arm, which absorbed the baton blow. The force of the blow fractured a bone in Scott's forearm, according to the lawsuit.
Goodwin and Larry Hawkins, who at the time was a Bladensburg police officer, conspired to falsely charge Scott with two counts of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, the lawsuit said. Hawkins also persuaded Scott to decline medical attention, telling him it would prolong his detention, according to the lawsuit.
Scott was scheduled to go to trial on those charges in June 2008. County prosecutors dropped all charges when neither Goodwin nor Hawkins showed up for the trial, Roberts said.
William Chen, a private attorney contracted to represent the county in the lawsuit, said in his opening statement that the county was not liable because Goodwin was moonlighting as a security officer at the time of the incident and was not acting as a police officer.
Chen declined to comment on the settlement.
Hawkins left the Bladensburg police force in February 2008. Dan Karp, the attorney who represented Hawkins in the civil lawsuit, said Hawkins was a probationary officer at the time of the incident and that his leaving the police department had nothing to do with Scott's allegations.
Goodwin, who joined the police force in 1992 and is assigned to the pawn unit, did not respond to a request for comment submitted through the president of the police union.
During the past decade, Roberts has won more than $9 million in jury verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients who alleged they were brutalized or otherwise mistreated by county police.
-- Ruben Castaneda
March 10, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
Categories: From the Courthouse , Pr. George's , Ruben Castaneda
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