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Police suit: $30,001 awarded to Wachsmuth

A federal jury has awarded $30,001 to Tricia Wachsmuth in her civil rights lawsuit against the Powell Police Deparment, finding that officers unsafely deployed a flashbang and used her as a human shield while executing a search warrant at her home two years ago.

The jury rejected Wachsmuth's claims that the officers didn't knock and announce their presence and immediately entered the East North Street home. The jury determined police knocked, announced, and waited a reasonable amount of time before ramming open the door and that their plan to enter was constitutional.

The jury found Sgt. Mike Chretien violated Wachsmuth's civil rights for ordering her to go down the stairs "with guns" as a human shield, and that Sgt. Roy Eckerdt violated her civil rights for not stopping Chretien. They also found that before deploying the flashbang, Sgt. Alan Kent and Officer Matt McCaslin failed to look into room in a manner that would determine the device would not risk injury.

The jury cleared the city of Powell, Police Chief Tim Feathers and the seven other officers who participated in the raid and who were named in the suit.

The panel awarded $1 for emotional pain and mental anguish and $30,000 for medical costs; Wachsmuth had sought $500,000 and $90,000, respectively.

The presiding juror said their findings were based specifically on the jury instructions given to them and also said they had some problems with how the questions were worded.

Judge Alan Johnson accepted their  verdict, and now will take their findings under consideration and issue a judgement. The Tribune will provide much more detail in Tuesday's edition.

The jurors reached their verdict around 10:30 a.m. this (Friday) morning.

The eight-member jury failed to reach a verdict during a full day of deliberations yesterday (Thursday), calling it a night around 7:45 p.m. They have been mulling the case since early Wednesday afternoon, at the conclusion of closing arguments (previous story here).

Jurors asked several questions of Judge Johnson over the last couple days, who, in collaboration with the attorneys in the case, has issued further instructions to answer their inquires.

There is no time limit on how long a jury may deliberate; the general rule is "as long as it takes," though if the panel deadlocks and can not reach a unanimous verdict after extensive deliberations, a mistrial may be declared.

The verdict form contains 18 questions for the jury to answer. The first seven questions ask if Wachsmuth's rights were violated and if so, by which officers. They also ask if she suffered damages as a result of those violations, and if so, how much money is she due?

The last 11 questions on the form deal with questions of fact. They have been paraphrased below:

1) Did Sgt. Mike Chretien plan to unconstitutionally execute the warrant?
2) Did Police Chief Tim Feathers approve an unconstitutional plan?
3) Were the officers who served the warrant that night briefed on an unconstitutional plan?
4) If so, did the officers fail to object to the unconstitutional plan?
5) If so, which officers failed to object?
6) Did Officer Kirk Chapman knock and announce the Powell Police Department's presence?
7) Did the entry team wait a reasonable amount of time before entering the home?
8) Did Sgt. Alan Kent and Officer Matt McCaslin look into the master bedroom window before flashbang in a manner that the device would not risk injury?
9) Did Sgt. Chretien order Wachsmuth to go downstairs with guns to be used as a human shield?
10) Did the officers in the house fail to stop Sgt. Chretien from doing that?
11) If so, which officers failed to stop him?

The jury does not have to answer all of the questions, depending on what they find. For example, if jurors find no constitutional violations took place, they only have to answer the first one as "no."

Editor's note: This version corrects what the jury said about their decision, clarifying their decision was based specifically on the given instructions, not the questions' wording.

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36 comments

  • posted by OVER IT

    August 08, 2012 3:51 am

    The Powell POLICE ARE A JOKE. Feathers needs to go and for the life of me I cant understand how or why he is still here. He is a lazy POS who doesnt know how to run his department. Of course he was at home the night the raid happened. Why would he have been there? If your not there you cant get into trouble for taking part. Powell used to have good cops and now look at them. I know im posting this late but I cant stand the way citizens of powell are treated by these power hungry, pig headed, little man sindrome officers. They do not have our best intrests in mind! People need to stand up. And it isnt just this case that they acted like this on. Its with every person they pull over or what ever. Its time for a change. They get away with to much ****!

  • posted by Dave Stevens

    April 08, 2011 8:50 am

    Police are doing a great job.

  • posted by Just Me

    March 08, 2011 7:23 pm

    Mr. 4570 the Tuesday edition has been printed so please show us the proof that you say you have that the Powell officers lied, committed perjury, tampered with witnesses, hid evidence and concocted evidence.

  • posted by jim

    March 08, 2011 5:52 am

    When will you people learn.... You can't win a battle from the sidelines. This chief should be an elected official, along with the other members of the hypocracy. Steve O was one that would give you the shirt off his back. Would the chief? If you really want action petition it...

  • posted by joe blow

    March 08, 2011 5:27 am

    POWER....CONTROL.....Those words sound familiar. Human nature dictates that if money or status is involved those with status will prevail... Take a good look at Steve, cause its seems to be repetitive. Let some one else take the fall for your actions or inactions Chief, your good at it. Too bad the chief doesn't practice what he PREACHES in the good book..

  • posted by Mr. 4570

    March 07, 2011 11:07 pm

    Just Me, I am so glad you asked for proof of the points I raised! I would like to see them in print as well. All of the things I mentioned were explicitly raised in testimony in the trial. Unfortunately, none of these points that cast the PD in a negative light were printed in the stories published by the tribune. So, I will be more than happy to give you examples, but, it would certainly be better if the paper published them first. So, let's wait and see if Tuesday's paper prints a more objective story. If the tribune does their job and reports objectively there will be no need for me to provide you proof.

  • posted by Thanks

    March 07, 2011 12:28 pm

    Anon Juror..

    Thank you for your service,,,I am sure it was tough to sit and listen to it all. You did everything right. The system worked. I only disagree agree on one point... you say that this would not have happen if the people would not have broken the law. People break the law all over our country and police handle it without incident thousands of times a day because they do it the right way. When they don't do it the right way then we have these measures in place to hold them accountable , the checks and balances of our system. Again thank you for your service.

  • posted by Frank White

    March 07, 2011 11:04 am

    People are quick to condemn the victims who are the Wachsmuths. In the absence of exciting police chases and high crime these city employees overact with a chance to save, who? From what? Marijuana, really thousands of people in surrounding states are legally using it.
    Put the City Employees to good use and have then write tickets to people speeding in school zones. Now that is protecting the innocent from harm and serving the public's interest.
    Just wait till Mead signs into law an action that takes away your constitutional right to refuse, coming home from the swimming pool, eyes are red, your getting tested, no you refuse...

  • posted by TB

    March 07, 2011 8:03 am

    From reading these comments,it appears someone needs to go...just who is the question.Instead of the usual **** running downhill,how about it runs uphill for a change.Powell people need to take a stand against what is going on around this town,before it gets out of hand with macho attitudes and fat heads.Which is exactly what will happen if the local law gets away with this fiasco.Look in the mirror people,it's up to you all to make a difference,or suffer the consequences later on.

  • posted by Paul York

    March 06, 2011 4:27 pm

    Matt Thomas-->The only 99 percent that you are talking about are ignorant. The plaintiff's were remorseful for what they had done. The police had no remorse for invading their rights or emotionally damaging the woman for life. In 15 states, the use of medical marijuana is legal. A marijuana card possessor can have up to 12 immature plants. The police occurring the crime against these citizens is far more worse than growing two plants.

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