JUDGE RULES IN FAVOR OF WINSLOW POLICE OFFICERS IN EXCESSIVE-FORCE CASE
WINSLOW — A federal judge has issued a recommended ruling in favor of the town and three Winslow police officers in a lawsuit brought by a resident who claimed the officers used excessive force against him during an arrest two years ago.
William Sadulsky filed suit against the town and officers Joshua Veilleux, Haley Fleming and Michael Michaud in 2014, charging that the officers had used excessive force, illegally entered his home and unlawfully detained him. They went to his Quimby Lane residence in January 2012 in response to a noise complaint.
In a 30-page recommendation issued Wednesday, Judge John Rich recommended granting a motion for summary judgment on almost every charge in the lawsuit filed by the town and officers.
"We proved to the court that some parts of the case shouldn't proceed, because the plaintiff hasn't even made out a case that would survive the trial," said Edward Benjamin, an attorney from the Portland law firm Drummond Woodsum who represents the town and the officers. Veilleux and Fleming still work with the Winslow department, but Michaud left to take a job out of state.
A separate charge, that Fleming used excessive force when he used a Taser on Sadulsky, was not included in the summary judgment because the two sides dispute what happened during the incident.
Sadulsky has 14 days to file an objection to the ruling. An objection will be sent to an assigned judge to review and decide whether to adopt the recommendation or amend it. If no objection is filed, the recommendation stands as the ruling in the case.
Sadulsky's attorney, Joseph Baldacci, didn't return a phone message left on Thursday at his Bangor office.
In his suit, Sadulsky alleged that Fleming forced his way into Sadulsky's home and repeatedly used his Taser on Sadulsky while he was standing with his hands up, and he accused Michaud and Veilleux of excessive force. He also charged that the town was responsible for damages because it failed to train or supervise its officers properly. Sadulsky and his wife, Sarah Sadulsky, sought damages for physical and psychological injuries they said they suffered in the incident.
Fleming, on the other hand, said he and Michaud were assaulted by an agitated Sadulsky when they went to the residence on the evening of Jan. 2, 2012, in response to a noise complaint. The altercation led to a physical struggle, during which Fleming attempted to use his Taser on Sadulsky, but it malfunctioned. Fleming then used the Taser on stun mode to subdue the resident.
In September 2012, a jury in Kennebec County convicted Sadulsky of assaulting Michaud during the incident but acquitted him of a charge that he assaulted Fleming.
In his recommended ruling, Rich found that almost none of the claims brought up by Sadulsky were triable. He rejected the argument that the town's situational use of force policy and its lack of a Taser training policy were unconstitutional, and further found, by Sadulsky's own admission in testimony at the 2012 trial and in a deposition for the lawsuit, that Michaud and Veilleux were not present when Fleming used the Taser.
Further, Rich shot down the argument that Sadulsky was imprisoned wrongly, pointing out that since he had been convicted of assaulting an officer, there was probable cause for his arrest. Similarly, the judge found that the officers didn't enter Sadulsky's home illegally when they responded to the noise complaint.
In an interview Thursday, Benjamin said that the plaintiffs "failed miserably" to back of any of their claims.
"I'm not surprised by the result," Benjamin said. "I don't expect there to be any different result if there is an objection filed," he added.
If the ruling stands, Fleming still stands accused of having used excessive force. Because there is such a dispute about what happened in the incident, the case will have to go to a jury trial for a decision, Benjamin said.