CHARLESTON – A Wood County man has settled his excessive force lawsuit against the City of Parkersburg for $135,000.
Jerry Seabolt agreed in August to settle his claims against Parkersburg, members of its police department and Mayor Bob Newell, according to his attorney John Bryan. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
The settlement came two weeks after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a judge’s ruling in favor of a Parkersburg man who claimed a former Wood County sheriff’s deputy brutalized him while in custody.
Seabolt’s lawsuit says Officer Nathan Deuley alleged in a 2011 letter drafted by his attorney that years earlier, Newell told police officers he was tired of small, frivolous complaints against the police department during a meeting.
“He advised the officers to the effect that if they were in a scuffle, with arrestees or pretrial detainees, to ‘beat their ass and put them in the hospital,’” the complaint says of the letter.
“Newell went on to state that he knew how to deal with the insurance companies and for officers of the Parkersburg Police Department not to worry about that issue.”
That policy of excessive force was on display Oct. 15, 2011, the complaint says, when Seabolt was arrested for public intoxication, disorderly conduct and obstruction.
The arresting officers, who are co-defendants in the suit, were Joshua A. Vensel, Beniah Depue and Justin Blake.
Seabolt had been standing in front of a Dollar General store in Parkersburg with friend David Hastings. He had bloodshot eyes and smelled of alcohol, officers said. He became aggressive towards them and had to be handcuffed, they said.
Hastings claimed an officer to Seabolt that if he didn’t shut up, he was going to punch him in the mouth.
“As soon as they cuffed him, the blond-haired officer (Depue) and two other officers grabbed him to transport him to the police cruiser,” the complaint says.
“Then the three officers slammed the Plaintiff’s head into the hood of a police cruiser, while the Plaintiff was handcuffed.”
Depue also told Hastings that Seabolt was about to “get an ass-whooping,” the complaint alleges.
At the Wood County Holding Center, Vensel punched Seabolt in the face, which knocked Seabolt unconscious, the complaint says. A surveillance camera captured the punch, it adds.
Seabolt was transported to Camden Clark Medical Center and treated for his injuries, the complaint says.
Vensel later pleaded guilty to the battery of Seabolt. He agreed to surrender his law enforcement certifaction and will not seek employment as a law enforcement officer anywhere in the country.
Seabolt has memory loss and problems with his jaw, the complaint says.
Seabolt filed his lawsuit on June 6, 2012, and amended his complaint on July 18, 2013.
From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org.