2 officers beat him in jail, Ellicott City man alleges Ex-inmate says he was handcuffed

July 09, 1996|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Money, perhaps, was never an issue for Michael A. Saukas. He just wanted his day in court -- and he soon might get it.

The Ellicott City man has filed assault and battery charges in Howard County District Court against two officers at the Howard County Detention Center, alleging that they beat him during a fight at the jail in February while he was an inmate in handcuffs.

Saukas could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The county state's attorney's office is reviewing the charges this week and has not decided whether to proceed with the case against Officer Alex Harold Jacobs and Capt. Thomas V. Kimball Jr., a former shift commander who was removed from his post in May after inquiries by The Sun revealed that he was not certified for the job.

The court has scheduled a trial for Aug. 15.

If the trial is held, it will be the first time that the county has defended an employee for criminal charges since 1987, when a case was brought against the county Human Rights Commission for allegedly releasing confidential information, said Todd Taylor, an attorney in the county's Office of Law.

Saukas, 23, filed the charges June 13 -- the same day that he made a deal with Howard County prosecutors that he would not file a civil suit against the county or its employees.

In exchange for the county's agreeing to drop assault and battery charges against him -- charges stemming from the fight with the two officers -- Saukas signed a "civil release" that prevents him from seeking monetary compensation for the incident, prosecutors said.

Saukas' defense attorney, Jason Shapiro, said he was unaware of Saukas' plans to bring charges against Kimball and Jacobs until after the charges were filed.

"He did not do that with my knowledge or consent," said Shapiro, who brokered the deal with the state's attorney's office to have the charges dropped.

The plea agreement appears to have a loophole that allows Saukas to file criminal charges.

"If the criminal charges are not specifically mentioned in the [agreement], the argument can be made" that Saukas has a right to press charges against the officers, said Christine Gage, chief of District Court for the county state's attorney's office.

Nevertheless, Mr. Taylor, in the county's Office of Law, believes that Saukas has violated the intent of the agreement by filing criminal charges. Mr. Taylor wants the case dropped.

"Mr. Saukas has a faulty recollection of the plea agreement," said Taylor. "You've got to have an end to litigation at some point."

The state's attorney office and jail officials agreed to last month's deal with Saukas.

James N. "Buck" Rollins, the jail's director, would not discuss the case yesterday. "Unfortunately, I have no comment in regards to the matter. I will make a comment after the matter is litigated," he said.

Kimball, who oversaw 42 of the jail's 99 officers, is in the state's training program for correctional officers after it was found in May that he was not certified. He could not be reached for comment.

In previous interviews, Rollins has said that Saukas, who was released from the county jail June 27, instigated problems with jail officers. "He has been a difficult inmate to deal with," he said at the time.

Saukas, who was in jail for violating his probation, acknowledged in interviews with The Sun that he had caused trouble at the jail but that too much force was used to get him to go to his cell on the afternoon of Feb. 24.

That day, he wanted to see shift commander Kimball to complain about his headphones being stolen, so he staged a protest by sitting on the floor of his cell block on his way back to his cell from seeing a visitor, according to Saukas and jail incident reports.

When officers ordered him to his cell, he refused. Kimball was called to the scene and also ordered Saukas -- standing by then -- to his cell. He again refused.

According to the charging documents, Saukas said Kimball then punched him in the face with his right hand twice, knocking him to the floor and breaking his glasses. Saukas alleges that Kimball and Jacobs continued to beat him -- while he was wearing handcuffs -- until they knocked him out, according to the charging documents.

When Saukas recovered, he said, he was in his cell with his wrists and mouth bleeding, knots and bumps on his head, numbness in his thumbs and loss of sight in his right eye, the charging documents say.

According to Kimball's incident reports, officers "subdued" Saukas. The reports give no explanation as to how Saukas was "subdued" or whether he was wearing handcuffs at the time.

Kimball alleges that officers took action in response to Saukas, who took a "karate stance" and kicked him in the right shin and above the right knee when he was ordered to go to his cell, according to jail incident reports.

As a result of the incident, Kimball filed assault and battery charges against Saukas. But the deal to drop the charges against Saukas was made after his attorney threatened to bring up Kimball's failure to obtain required state certification before taking his job at the Howard jail in 1994.

State's Attorney Marna McLendon said her office is taking the charges seriously despite the differing interpretations of the plea agreement.

"I know that the District Court [prosecutors] will look at those charges," McLendon said. "They'll be as fair and objective as they would with any other case."

Pub Date: 7/09/96

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