City, police cleared in drugging lawsuit
ASPEN ” A Basalt woman’s lawsuit was dealt another setback when a federal judge cleared the city of Aspen and three police department members of committing any wrongdoing when she was arrested and forcibly sedated at the Pitkin County jail.
Delivered last week, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Edward W. Nottingham’s summary judgment dismissed the city, police officer Dan Davis, former police chief Loren Ryerson and ex-officer Melinda Calvano from Bronwyn Anglin’s lawsuit.
Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor said Judge Nottingham’s ruling should send a message that the department, whose tactics had been under a cloud of public scrutiny in recent years, has a fair approach toward policing.
“We treat people with the respect that they deserve,” he said. “And that goes across the board. It would seem, at least at initial blush, that this ruling would substantiate that.”
Pryor said that lawsuits such as Anglin’s go with the territory.
“The public obviously has a right to question police actions, and that’s a good thing,” he said.
Anglin’s suit contended a number of her constitutional rights were violated on Dec. 11, 2004, when she was injected with anti-psychotic medication while she was at the Pitkin County Jail. Anglin claimed that by forcibly tranquilizing her, officials denied her rights to free speech, due process, and her right to be free from unreasonable seizure.
The judge’s ruling was the latest setback for Anglin’s lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court of Denver in August 2006. Anglin originally sued the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners, Sheriff Bob Braudis, deputy Walt Geister, Dr. Chris Martinez, Aspen Valley Hospital, two paramedics, the city of Aspen and three members of the police department. Her suit did not specify an amount in damages.
Nearly all of the of the defendants have been dismissed from the lawsuit. The only surviving accusation in Anglin’s lawsuit is a 14th Amendment claim against Geister, who was working at the jail the night in question.
Nottingham previously ruled that Geister’s role in the incident is unclear, chiefly because Geister told hospital officials that Anglin was combative and banging her head against the cell door, which promoted Dr. Martinez to inject her. Anglin has maintained that Geister’s report was false and had it not been made, she would not have been sedated.
Geister’s attorney, Josh A. Marks of Boulder, said in an e-mail message Friday that “no strategic decisions have been made on the remainder of the case from our side.”
Anglin’s attorneys, David A. Lane and Darold W. Killmer, both of Denver, were not available for comment Friday.
In the meantime, the judge’s most recent summary judgment cleared Ryerson, who resigned last year in the wake of a sexual harassment investigation, because Anglin “has literally presented no evidence supporting a finding that Chief Ryerson personally participated in the decision to inject (Anglin).”
Anglin’s lawsuit argued that when she went to Pitkin County jail to check on a friend, Davis and Calvano threatened to sedate her if she did not calm down.
But Judge Nottingham’s summary judgment reasoned that Anglin’s suit failed to demonstrate that Calvano and Davis acted inappropriately when they restrained Anglin on the night in question.
“(Anglin) has not offered any evidence that could support an argument that officers Davis and Calvano somehow injected themselves into the decision-making processes and Dr. Martinez’s decision to sedate (Anglin),” the judge wrote.
According to a previous summary judgment Nottingham delivered that cleared the sheriff’s office, Anglin had used her cell phone to call 911 repeatedly from the jail house lobby, apparently because officers forbid Anglin to bond her friend out of jail.
The reason, Nottingham wrote, is because Anglin “was not a sober, responsible party,” a condition fueled by her consumption of some four or five glasses of wine earlier that evening.
Frustrated that Anglin was tying up the 911 line, the dispatcher on duty contacted jail personnel, and “officers Calvano and Davis proceeded to the lobby and shackled and handcuffed (Anglin) without warning,” the judge wrote.
Anglin was placed in maximum security, the judge wrote, because the jail’s other cells were occupied. Anglin apparently became frustrated and pounded on her cell’s door because she wanted to call her daughter, the judge wrote. The pounding lasted some 10 minutes, prompting jail officials to order her to stop. If she continued, the officials allegedly said, she would be taken to the hospital.
Anglin insisted she did not want medical treatment, but allegedly remained combative. In turn, jail officials, as well as paramedics who were called to the scene, placed Anglin face down on her cell bed. Under the direction of Dr. Martinez, paramedics subsequently injected her four times with Droperdiol.
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