Liberty trustees will vote on lawsuit settlement

Published: Fri, March 15, 2019 @ 12:05 a.m.

Liberty trustees to vote on lawsuit settlement

By Samantha Phillips


Township trustees will vote Monday whether to approve a $25,000 out-of-court settlement between the township and a male resident who alleged police used excessive force in his arrest.

Julian Gibson filed a lawsuit in August 2018. He made the claim of police brutality during his arrest for marijuana possession, resisting arrest and assault Aug. 26, 2017, the year before the suit was filed.

If approved, township Law Director Cherry Poteet said the township will pay $10,000, and the township’s insurance carrier will pay the remaining $15,000. The settlement includes payment of legal fees for Gibson’s lawyer.

Under the settlement, Gibson will dismiss the lawsuit, and the township and its officers will deny all liability. The settlement is not an admission of liability, Poteet said.

“We still contend that the officers acted lawfully,” she said.

Officer Robert Altier and Sgt. Daniel Kovach recognized Gibson’s car parked behind a building on Hadley Avenue, which Altier described in the August 2017 police report as a high-crime area for drug use. The lawsuit said Altier had prior engagements with Gibson.

Gibson and two other people got out of the car and walked into an apartment. Altier looked inside the car and saw marijuana spread out on top of the center console, opened the unlocked door and confiscated it, the report said.

The lawsuit described the quantity of marijuana taken as a “miniscule amount.”

The lawsuit alleged Gibson’s Fourth Amendment right, which protects people from unlawful search and seizure, was violated. Police, however, can legally search a car without a warrant under certain circumstances, such as probable cause.

Gibson then came outside and asked why the officers were looking through his car without a warrant, the report said.

When Gibson was told he was under arrest for drug possession, the report said he became combative.

The report then says Gibson “actively resisted arrest and a physical fight ensued,” and Altier was struck in the left arm and hand, and shoved. He used a stun weapon on Gibson, who was taken to the Trumbull County jail. He admitted he owned the marijuana.

“As a trustee, I was confident it was settled appropriately,” said Trustee Arnie Clebone. “We thought our attorney handled it very well. We have a lot of confidence in all our officers; we think they are doing a great job out there, and we hope they continue.”

The lawsuit describes Altier and Kovach’s actions as overreacting and said the altercation started when Gibson argued with Altier’s efforts to detain him for a minor misdemeanor offense.

The lawsuit claims Altier used excessive force in arresting Gibson and “initiated a malicious prosecution in response to Gibson voicing his right to be free of an unreasonable and illegal seizure.”

The lawsuit requested compensatory damages in excess of $25,000, punitive damages in an amount to be determined for the “willful and malicious conduct of defendants,” and compensation for pain, suffering and emotional trauma and distress.

Altier’s charges from the 2017 arrest are still ongoing in court. He is scheduled to appear at 8:30 a.m. Monday in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

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