ASHTABULA — A black man who said he was bit and mauled by a police dog and TASER-ed by city police filed a civil rights case in federal court Thursday against the police and the city.

Matthew Davis of Cleveland, who was acquitted by a jury two weeks ago in Municipal Court, is asking a federal jury for compensatory damages in excess of $75,000 for his injuries, as well as punitive damages for the willful and malicious conduct of the police officers, his attorney fees paid and that the City of Ashtabula be ordered to adopt policies to prevent future instances of this type of misconduct, according to the lawsuit filed by attorney David B. Malik of Chesterland.

Malik charges city police deprived Davis of his Fourth and 14th Amendments by depriving him of his right to be free of unreasonable seizures and the use of excessive force. Davis was not provided proper medical care once in custody and the police violated the Fifth Amendment, according to the complaint. As a result of the actions and misconduct of the police, Davis suffered permanent injuries, incurred medical bills, lost wages and suffered other damages, according to the complaint.

The altercation with police occurred on the evening of Aug. 2, 2006, while Davis rode a bicycle on West Prospect Road. He was stopped by Ashtabula Police Sgt. Stephen Kaselak, who has since moved to Florida. Davis had no identification on him.

Earlier that even and unknown to Davis, his son had filed a domestic violence complaint against him, which was unfounded, according to the lawsuit. Kaselak was investigating that complaint.

When Kaselak stopped Davis on the bicycle, Davis repeatedly asked the officer why he was being detained, the complaint said. Davis became increasingly uneasy with Kaselak’s failure to answer and Davis asked for a lawyer. When he did this, Davis said Kaselak knocked him down to the pavement, causing his head to hit the ground, according to the complaint.

Then Kaselak allowed his police dog to maul him, the complaint said.

Another officer, Sgt. Chad Brown, arrived on the scene and watched Davis roll around on the ground while the dog mauled him, according to the complaint. Brown is still on the police force.

“The officer claimed he was struggling, but the jury didn’t believe that,” Davis’ trial attorney, Robert Davis (no relation) of Cleveland said. “Kaselak and Brown refused to call the dog off.”

Brown then stunned Davis with a TASER device.

“Kaselak and Brown saw Mr. Davis paralyzed and writhing in pain and failed to act to mitigate the unnecessary pain and force being inflicted upon Mr. Davis by the K-9,” the complaint said.

Finally, the police officers handcuffed Davis and took him to city jail. The next morning, when a judge released him on a $3,000 personal recognizance bond, Davis’ family took him to the hospital emergency room.

Matthew Davis said earlier in the evening of Aug. 2, 2006, he argued with his 19-year-old son, but denied hitting him. It was the son who apparently called city police, leading to a domestic violence charge, which the jury acquitted him of on March 7, according court records.

The police charged Davis with resisting arrest, of which he also was acquitted, records show.

Malik said the Ashtabula police officers involved in the incident abused their authority.

“This is a very significant case in Ashtabula because the police are rarely challenged,” he said. “They think they are not subject to the law.”

City Solicitor Michael Franklin has blamed his “trial tactics,” not the police, for the acquittal. He said he went forward with the trial because he believes Davis is guilty.

Franklin contends Davis lied and the jury believed him.

The case also had two strikes against it, he said. It was two years old and the first officer on the scene — Kaselak — was not readily available to testify because he now lives in Florida.

Franklin chose not to bring Kaselak to Ohio to testify because Brown, who arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, was available.


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