Taser suit settlement: $28,500 | AspenTimes.com

Taser suit settlement: $28,500

John ColsonAspen, CO Colorado
Published: Steven “Social” Horn, acquitted of charges in town court related to an August 2004 Taser case. (John Colson photo)

CARBONDALE The Town of Carbondale owes $28,500 to Steven Horn, the man shocked multiple times by a Taser-wielding Carbondale policeman in 2004.The town had not revealed the amount due, after reaching a settlement during a conference Feb. 9, because of a request from the town’s insurance carrier, the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Authority.Town Attorney Mark Hamilton, responding to repeated requests from The Aspen Times and its sister newspaper in Carbondale, the Valley Journal, released the information Thursday.According to Hamilton, the town previously paid a deductible amount of $5,000, which is to be applied to the settlement. But beyond that, the town will not see any out-of-pocket expenses directly related to the deal, Hamilton said.

Hamilton said some paperwork remains related to the settlement, which was reached after a five-hour conference in Denver. According to minutes of the conference, formal dismissal papers for the federal lawsuit are due Feb. 28.The settlement brings an end to a federal civil rights lawsuit Horn and attorney Richard Dally filed in U.S. District Court in Denver in May.The case arose Aug. 4, 2004, when Carbondale police officer Jose Muñoz stopped Horn, a Carbondale resident, for running a stop sign in a borrowed pickup truck loaded with bales of hay for delivery to a town-organized party on Main Street.During the traffic stop, Horn got out of the truck to talk with Muñoz, whom he knew personally, and Muñoz hit him with a Taser after a brief exchange of words.

Muñoz used the Taser somewhere in the range of four to six times, according to testimony in a 2005 municipal court trial. A jury found Horn innocent of charges of resisting arrest and failing to obey the order of a police officer, but guilty of running a stop sign.In the wake of the incident, Horn’s attorney filed a formal notice reserving Horn’s right to sue the town, mentioning a possible amount of $250,000. The actual lawsuit named no dollar amount, but claimed Horn was “shocked and incapacitated” during the incident and suffered serious injuries as a result of being hit several times with 50,000 volts of electricity.According to the lawsuit, Muñoz violated Horn’s civil rights as guaranteed in the Fourth, Eighth and 14th amendments, which deal with unlawful search and seizure, “cruel and unusual punishment,” and the right to due process and equal protection under the law.Muñoz has claimed Horn was acting erratically, shouting and waving his arms in a threatening manner, and refusing to obey instructions to get back in the car and stay.

The case also generated to a First Amendment lawsuit, which The Valley Journal filed after police officials refused to release information about a prior “excessive force” complaint against Muñoz. The lawsuit, filed for the newspaper by Denver attorney Steve Zansberg and heard by 9th Judicial District Judge James Boyd, forced the department to release the records in late 2005.Muñoz remains on active duty with the police department, and Town Manager Tom Baker said there are no plans to change that. He said police policies and procedures have been revised in the wake of the Taser incident, and were adopted by the town board of trustees last year.Dally, who practices in the Roaring Fork Valley and in Denver, was not available for comment. Horn, who no longer lives in Carbondale, also could not be reached.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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