A jury awarded a Maple Heights man $22 million this week for a 2012 traffic stop during which he was punched by an East Cleveland police officer and locked in a storage closet for four days without food, water or access to a toilet.
Arnold Black spent four days alone inside the East Cleveland Police Headquarters, according to a lawsuit decided this week in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, while his family was unable to reach him.
East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton said Thursday that the city already filed an appeal of the $22 million verdict.
One of the police officers named in the suit, Det. Randy Hicks, testified on behalf of Black after the city filed a lawsuit against him. The detective corroborated the allegations against himself and the department, according to Attorney Rob DiCello.
East Cleveland Police Chief Ralph Spotts did not appear at trial.
With East Cleveland teetering on financial default, DiCello said his client is in uncharted legal territory regarding the $22 million verdict, but believes he will be able to collect at least part of the $10 million in compensatory damages the jury awarded.
"We do believe we have an excellent claim for the $10 million," DiCello said. Of the other $12 million in punitive damages, $11 million was found against Spotts himself, DiCello said.
"The importance of this verdicts is not in the money we collect, it's in the message, the powerful message that the jury sent, that this kind of conduct will not be tolerated in Cuyahoga County," DiCello said.
After leaving his mother's house after dinner on April 28, 2012, Black was driving home through East Cleveland when he was tailed by Det. Randy Hicks who was driving an unmarked car, according to testimony.
The two exchanged glances and another officer, Jonathan O'Leary, pulled up behind him. O'Leary ordered Black out of the truck, handcuffed him and sat him on the hood.
Hicks tore apart the inside of Black's green truck, including the door panels, searching for narcotics.
Hicks asked Black why he was driving through his city, then punched Black in the temple as O'Leary stood by, at one point reaching in to prop Black up as Hicks continued to deliver punches to his face.
The two policemen took Black back to the East Cleveland Police Headquarters and locked him in a storage closet with no food or water. Black said he urinated and defecated in lockers during his stay.
On his second day in the closet, an officer allowed Black to use his cellphone to call his girlfriend.
But when the girlfriend came to the police department and asked to see him, she was told he was "under investigation" and "you can't see people that are under investigation."
It was not until the following week that Black was taken to the Cuyahoga County Jail.
One month later prosecutors dismissed drug charges that East Cleveland police filed against Black in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.
When asked to produce evidence from the traffic stop in the discovery phase of the trial, the city of East Cleveland told a judge overseeing Black's civil suit that they did not have dash cam video or police reports from the incident, DiCello said.