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PADDLING CASE 3 more young men file suit against retired police chief



Published: Fri, February 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Similar lawsuits were thrown out a week ago.

YOUNGSTOWN -- Three more young men have filed a federal lawsuit against James E. Martin, a retired Fowler Township police chief, who paddled boys in a youth diversion program.

Amir Shehabi and Hubert Flowers of Howland, and John L. Romine of Fowler, through Warren Atty. Sara T. Kovoor and Boardman Atty. Alan J. Matavich, filed suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court. They name as defendants Fowler Township, township trustees, Martin, Howland Township and Howland trustees plus Howland Police Chief Paul Monroe.

They claim violation of their civil and constitutional rights and seek monetary relief in a jury trial.

Trumbull County

Last week, a jury in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court found Martin guilty of 12 counts of using a sham legal process and six counts of dereliction of duty, all of which are misdemeanors. The sham legal process involved Martin's providing youthful offenders with a document that appeared official but was not.

His lawyer plans to appeal the Trumbull convictions. Sentencing is set for March 1.

The Trumbull jury acquitted Martin of felony theft, 11 counts of assault and six counts of dereliction of duty.

Subsequently, U.S. Magistrate Judge George J. Limbert here dismissed four civil lawsuits against Martin. Kovoor and Matavich also represented these plaintiffs.

Judge Limbert said Martin is entitled to summary judgment based on qualified immunity. Qualified immunity protects government officials from civil damages unless they clearly violated laws or constitutional rights.

Background

Martin once served as a part-time police chief for Fowler Township and as police captain for Howland Township. In both townships at separate times, he operated a youthful offenders diversion program that included corporal punishment.

Between March and May 2004, four civil lawsuits were filed against the townships and Martin by four males who participated in the diversion program, consolidated and set for jury trial in July.

Martin's Columbus lawyer, Douglas J. Suter, had asked Judge Limbert to dismiss the case because of the qualified immunity. Suter contended that the plaintiffs failed to cite any case law to show that it was unconstitutional to operate a diversion program; unconstitutional to use corporal punishment with the consent of the offender and parents; and unconstitutional to videotape the paddlings.

Judge Limbert said to establish a violation of rights, the plaintiffs needed to establish that the force applied caused severe injury, was disproportionate to the need presented and was inspired by malice or sadism rather than a merely careless or unwise excess of zeal.

The boys all violated the law in some form and agreed to participate in the diversionary program in lieu of prosecution, the judge said.




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