A Ramona teen who has accused Sheriff's Department staff of assault and battery and violation of civil rights is due to hear by July 5 whether his case might be litigated or be settled early.
The teen's attorney served county staff with a lawsuit last week, which claims: "It was plainly obvious to the county and Sheriff's Department that the involved deputy was a dangerous and violent employee, prone to physically harass and batter people he perceives to be a problem for him ... all of which was indicative of a policy, practice and custom to negligently hire ... deputy sheriffs."
The suit further alleges that Sheriff's Department staff worked in concert to cover up misconduct and that there are county customs and policies of "using excessive force on citizens, refusing to supervise, reprimand and/or discipline law enforcement officers/deputies who engage in misconduct." It states that the county provides, "inadequate training ... with respect to the apprehension of suspects" and calls the alleged deeds a "gross abuse of governmental authority and power" which were carried out "maliciously" and which "shock the conscience."
The case revolves around an alleged incident on Main Street on the night of Dec. 29, 2009, during which—according to the lawsuit—a sheriff's deputy allegedly "confronted" the minor after an employee at a restaurant told the deputy someone had been tampering with cars behind a building. The complaint states that the boy was skateboarding along Main Street after calling his mother to pick him up and that he had been visiting a friend who was working at a fast food restaurant.
The lawsuit claims Deputy Thomas Seiver illegally searched the minor, seized his cell phone and would not let him call his mother, punched him in the face twice, choked him, threw him down on the pavement, ground his face into the shopping center parking lot and then unjustifiably detained him, constituting "false charges" and "an illegal arrest and booking."
Specifically, the suit accuses numerous county employees of assault and battery, violating the teen's civil rights, intentionally inflicting emotional distress, and negligence. Several staff are named and another 50 personnel are included as "DOES 1 through 50" and are not named.
The plaintiff is referenced as J.K.G. because he was a minor at the time of the filing of the complaint.
Ramona attorney Julie Kiehne-Lamkin served the county with the lawsuit on June 13.
"There are serious constitutional violations," Kiehne-Lamkin said to Ramona Patch on Monday. "I get to pick and choose the cases I take. I believe in this case."
She said her client had just turned 16 at the time of the alleged incident. He is now 17.
The complaint states that the teen was unarmed and showed no signs that he would resist arrest or be a threat.
Kiehne-Lamkin said county counsel has 21 days—until July 5—to respond. The suit seeks damages of more than $1 million and a jury trial. It was filed with the U.S. District Court.
A spokeperson for the Sheriff's Department declined comment and told Patch by email, "This is a pending legal matter that was very recently referred to County Counsel."
The deputy counsel who has been given the case was out of the office on Monday.
Sheriff's personnel named in the suit are: Deputy Thomas Seiver, Detective Barbara Crozier, Deputy Jason Ward, Deputy Paul Mehaffie III and Sgt. George Calderon.
The lawsuit claims Sheriff's Department staff did not provide medical care to the boy, though he was allegedly bleeding when he was taken to Ramona Sheriff's substation. It further states that he has incurred medical costs as a result and also a loss of past and future wages and that his earning capacity has been diminished.
The teenager filed a claim against the county for damages in June 2010 but the claim was denied two months later, according to the lawsuit. The suit also alleges that he was subject to "false and unjust juvenile court proceedings," stating that the district attorney charged him with one felony count of resisting an executive officer and two misdemeanors related to battery of a peace officer and resisting a peace officer. According to the complaint, that case was dismissed by the judge after presentations by both sides.
Kiehne-Lamkin said her client has suffered mental and emotional anguish and the indignity of the events. She is seeking general and punitive damages and attorney's fees on his behalf.
The attorney said she has practiced civil litigation for more than 20 years, including cases related to real estate, insurance and restraining orders.
Seiver, Ward and Mehaffie still work out of the Ramona substation, she said. Calderon works out of the Hall of Justice in downtown San Diego, and Crozier is posted at the Santee Sheriff's station, Kiehne-Lamkin said.