Lawsuit against police claims excessive force Catonsville woman seeks $2.25 million

June 13, 1993|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

A Catonsville woman sued a Baltimore County police office and the county Police Department for $2.25 million last week, saying she was manhandled in an arrest in July -- an accusation that had not previously been reported to police officials.

In the lawsuit, Julia Lynn Knight, 31, of Fern Valley Circle said she was on her way home from work at the Turf Valley Country Club when a Howard County officer stopped her on U.S. 40 near Nuwood Drive about 3 a.m. July 18. The officer suspected she might be driving drunk.

The Howard County officer was preparing to let her go when Officer Roger B. Clise of Baltimore County's Wilkens precinct pulled up and took over. Ms. Knight alleges that she politely told Officer Clise she was tired and her knee hurt.

According to the suit, she "was thrown down on the ground, handcuffed, arrested and charged with resisting arrest and driving while intoxicated," then jailed for several hours.

The suit claims that Officer Clise used excessive force and injured Ms. Knight's wrists, arms, legs and face during the arrest.

She is seeking $2 million in punitive damages from the arresting officer and the Police Department.

The charges stemming from the arrest were dropped in Baltimore County District Court on Sept. 2, said Ms. Knight's attorney, Stuart J. Snyder. Ms. Knight might have smelled of liquor at the time of her arrest because she had been tending a banquet bar at the club since 4 p.m. the previous day, Mr. Snyder said. He said his client had not been drinking.

Other unidentified Baltimore County officers witnessed Ms. Knight being thrown to the ground, Mr. Snyder said. But only the Howard County officer, whom Mr. Snyder would not identify, reported an "irregularity" to his superiors.

The Howard County officer "said he didn't want a Rodney King situation," a reference to the beating of a black motorist by white officers in Los Angeles, Mr. Snyder said.

L All parties involved in the Baltimore County case are white.

Baltimore County police spokesmen said Ms. Knight's allegations came as a surprise.

"She never filed a complaint, and if she did, we would pursue it," said department spokesman E. Jay Miller. "We may undertake our own investigation, anyway."

As to the specific allegations, Mr. Miller said, "We can't comment on anything that's under litigation."

Neither Officer Clise nor the Howard County officer could be reached for comment.

Charging documents in the case say Officer Clise noted an odor of alcohol and bloodshot eyes, and found a cup in the back of Ms. Knight's Chevrolet Camaro. The cup was later found to contain whiskey, police said.

Officer Clise also reported that Ms. Knight could not recite the alphabet or walk heel-to-toe. When told to stand on one leg, she fell to the side, explaining that she was nervous.

When told to place her hands behind her because she was under arrest, she ran, then struggled as Officer Clise tried to handcuff her and "had to be forced to the ground in order to be cuffed," the report stated.

After the arrest, Officer Clise reported that Ms. Knight refused to take a breath test because she said she "was covered with booze and [it had been] absorbed through her skin."

A check of state motor vehicle records showed no points on Ms. Knight's driving record for the past three years.

In the lawsuit, filed Monday in Baltimore County Circuit Court, Ms. Knight also seeks $250,000 in damages on various counts: assault and battery, emotional distress, false arrest and malicious prosecution -- the latter because, the suit claims, the officer knew she wasn't drunk or resisting arrest.

Although the criminal charges were dismissed, Ms. Knight stated in her suit, she had to spend money for an attorney and suffered "extensive humiliation and ridicule, injury to her reputation [and] nervousness."

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