Aldermen vote to settle Taser lawsuit for $10,000
By Stephanie M. Peters
Staff Writer | May 20,2009
This image is from a video of Rutland Police Department officers arresting George Griffin Jr. posted on YouTube.com.
The city aldermen have agreed to pay a $10,000 settlement in a lawsuit brought by a Rutland man who claimed city police used excessive force when they used a Taser stun gun while arresting him in July 2007.
After meeting in executive session to discuss the proposed settlement, the Board of Aldermen voted 9-0 Monday night to authorize the mayor to settle with George Griffin Jr.
On July 6, 2007, as hundreds of people filled downtown for a Friday Night Live event, Griffin, then 19, was arrested at the corner of Center and Wales streets after officer Ed Dumas was called to the area for a report of a young man trying to start fights. Griffin was charged with consumption of alcohol by a minor and disorderly conduct.
After Griffin was placed in handcuffs, officer Ed Dumas used the Taser on Griffin when he resisted being placed in the cruiser and having a seat belt placed on him, according to Dumas' affidavit.
He had placed his Taser on Griffin's hip and "told him three times to sit down or I was going to tase him" before using the stun gun, Dumas wrote.
A two-minute video of the incident made its way to the Web site YouTube courtesy of Rutland lawyer Matthew Branchaud in September 2008, about the same time Branchaud filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of Griffin.
Branchaud argued in the lawsuit that "there is no reason to use a Taser on a handcuffed teen that weighs 140 pounds, especially when the teen is not resisting arrest, threatening harm or damaging property."
Branchaud also wrote that the effects of the stun caused Griffin to vomit and urinate himself. After his arrest, Griffin had a blood alcohol content of 0.155, nearly twice the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle.
In October 2008, the lawsuit moved from Rutland Superior Court to federal court, where the city and Dumas filed denials to the claim.
Neither Branchaud nor Nancy Sheahan, the city's lawyer in the lawsuit, could be reached for comment about the settlement Tuesday afternoon.
The $10,000 settlement will be paid by the city's insurance, according to City Attorney Andrew Costello. Included in the aldermen's motion on Monday was a requirement that the cost to the city not exceed its $500 insurance deductible to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, through which the city procures its insurance.
Alderman Christopher Robinson, an investigator for the state's Public Defender's Office, abstained from voting on the motion, citing prior working relationships with Branchaud.