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Settlement reached in case against cop



Published: Fri, June 24, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



YOUNGSTOWN -- A Niles woman compelled by a Weathersfield Township cop to seek medical attention reached a settlement in federal court but agreed not to disclose the terms, her lawyer says.

The civil lawsuit Tammy L. Rivera, 43, of Tenth Street filed in U.S. District Court in Youngstown alleged battery, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, civil rights violations and infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit originated in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court and was transferred to federal court in January.

Rivera said in court papers that she had no intention of overdosing after an argument with her boyfriend, and she sued the Weathersfield Township cop who forced her to a hospital and later charged her with resisting arrest.

Rivera's Youngstown lawyer, John N. Zomoida Jr., said Thursday that the parties agreed to not disclose terms of the settlement reached June 9. He said no one's a winner in these kind of cases.

It wasn't immediately clear if the township used insurance to pay the settlement. Questions about the amount and method of payment were directed to the township's Warren attorney, William Roux. Neither he nor trustee chairman Fred Bobovnyk could be reached Thursday.

Confident compensation

When interviewed in January, Zomoida was confident his client would be compensated for violation of her rights.

North Canton lawyer Gregory A. Beck represented the township, its police department and Patrolman Richard T. Stitt in the federal lawsuit. Beck was not in his office Thursday.

The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus in Youngstown then transferred to Magistrate Judge James S. Gallas in Akron.

In January, Beck told The Vindicator the lawsuit dealt with the police officer asserting his power to have Rivera seek medical attention. The lawyer said this is the reverse of lawsuits where police are accused of having knowledge that a person was in danger and not doing anything.

Rivera's lawsuit states that on July 12, 2004, Stitt was dispatched to her residence. When the officer got there, she told him that she'd had an argument with her boyfriend, who left in her car to go to his Russell Avenue home in Niles.

Incomplete statement

She said Stitt became "angry, revengeful, rude and/or insolent" when she refused to complete a statement and have her boyfriend arrested. She followed Stitt to her boyfriend's home then returned to her residence at the officer's request.

About 90 minutes later, Stitt returned to Rivera's home in response to a report that she was going to overdose on pills. Rivera told the officer she had no intention of overdosing or otherwise harming herself, the lawsuit states.

She said Stitt advised her that she couldn't stay home alone so she called her mother to pick her up. While Rivera's mother was on the way, Still requested that an ambulance take Rivera to the hospital.

Rivera, in her lawsuit, said Stitt grabbed her arm and swung her into his cruiser when she questioned the need for an ambulance. She alleges that he handcuffed her and threatened her with arrest if she didn't go to a hospital.

After a brief exam at St. Joseph Health Center, Rivera was released.

On July 14, she went to a doctor for injuries she said she received from Stitt throwing her in the cruiser and was advised to file a police report, which she did.

Receiving a summons

Then, on July 17, she received a court summons charging her with resisting arrest signed by Stitt. Niles Municipal Court dismissed the charge, the civil suit states.

Zomoida said in the lawsuit that his client sustained physical injuries, humiliation, injury to feelings, mental suffering and monetary loss. He said the township police department and the township were subject to liability for Stitt's actions.

Beck said in court papers that Stitt denied the allegations in Rivera's lawsuit. Also, the lawyer said Stitt was shielded by qualified immunity, which protects government officials from civil damages unless they clearly violated laws or constitutional rights.




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