New suit filed over allegations of paddling in diversion program

The latest allegations join four other suits over mistreatment in a juvenile diversion program.
WARREN -- A Howland man is suing Howland Township, Fowler Township and James E. Martin over treatment he received as a juvenile in a diversion program.
Christian Mikusevich, now an adult, says in the lawsuit that Martin's actions during the program "constituted multiple assaults and batteries" -- and that videotaping these without his knowledge invaded his right to privacy.
Mikusevich, of Stillwagon Road, filed suit Friday in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court and seeks a jury trial before Judge W. Wyatt McKay.
Mikusevich says in the suit that Martin, as a Howland police captain and a Fowler police chief, ran a diversion program for youths from 1975 to 1993. Martin's practice of inflicting physical punishment to juveniles came to the attention of his superiors sometime in early 1993, it adds.
Mikusevich seeks an "appropriate amount" of compensatory damages in excess of $100,000 and punitive damages in excess of $100,000. His lawyer is Ned C. Gold Jr.
The defendants are both townships; Howland trustees Rick G. Clark, Richard E. Orwig and Sally B. Wehmer; Howland Police Chief Paul Monroe; and Fowler trustees Tom L. Carr, James Haun and John Gallatin.
Constitutional issues
Mikusevich was issued a traffic citation Sept. 2, 2003. His mother, Donna, soon received a phone call from Howland police recommending she inquire at the Fowler Police Department about the diversion program.
In October 2003 she met with Martin at the Fowler department and entered into a written probation order, designating Martin as a probation officer, the suit continues.
During the course of nine meetings, the court document states, Martin instructed her son to "bend over and grab his ankles." He then struck Mikusevich "several times on his buttocks with a large wooden paddle, inflicting visible injuries and emotional pain."
Mikusevich claims he was deprived of his constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, due process and equal protection under the laws.
The government entities and their officials, Mikusevich's lawsuit contends, were negligent in hiring or retaining, training or supervising Martin, now retired.
Other allegations
Between March and May 2004, four lawsuits were filed against the townships and Martin by four males who participated in the diversion program, three of whom were paddled. The cases, which span July 2003 through January 2004, have been consolidated and are set for jury trial in July in Youngstown federal court.
Martin's Columbus lawyer, Douglas J. Suter, has said Martin has qualified immunity, which protects government officials from civil damages unless they clearly violated laws or constitutional rights.

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