Man merely standing in street sues police for jabbing him with baton

Kelly Holleran Sep. 1, 2009, 2:51am

A man has filed suit against the Madison police officer who he says jabbed him in the stomach with a baton merely because the man was standing in the middle of the street.

Trevaughn Cox claims he was standing on Sixth Street in front of his home at 2004 Sixth St. in Madison on Aug. 27, 2008, when Madison police officer Michael Renth saw him in the middle of the street.

Renth drove toward Cox and called for assistance before exiting his patrol car, according to the complaint filed Aug. 26 in Madison County Circuit Court.

"Without waiting for assistance, Renth got out of his vehicle, walked across the street, and jabbed Trevaughn in the stomach with his department issued baton," the suit states.

Cox bent over from the blow, and as he started to straighten up, Renth hit Cox over his right eyebrow with the baton, the complaint says.

"At the time Renth struck Trevaughn, Renth had no specific, articulable facts in his possession that Trevaughn had committed or was about to commit a crime which justified placing Trevaughn under arrest," the suit states.

Still, Renth transported Cox to Madison's police department where he shoved Cox into a holding area wall, Cox claims.

Renth charged Cox with resisting arrest and aggravated assault and issued a traffic citation for walking along a highway and an ordinance violation for disobeying a police officer, according to the complaint.

Cox was later acquitted of aggravated assault because Renth lacked probable cause, the suit states.

However, Cox was found guilty of resisting arrest, but claims if it weren't for Renth's unlawful arrest, Cox would never have resisted arrest.

Cox believes Renth charged him with aggravated assault to justify his attack on Cox.

"The defendant Renth acted with malice by striking Trevaughn twice without provocation and by arresting him to justify his unprovoked attack upon Trevaughn," the suit states.

After his arrest, Cox had to be taken to Abbott Emergency Medical Service at Gateway Regional Medical Center for head injuries caused by Renth's actions, according to the complaint.

In addition to his head injuries, Cox experienced physical pain and suffering, a scar above his right eyebrow, multiple contusions and lacerations, a swelling of the scalp and forehead, spitting of blood from his jab in the abdomen, emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation, the suit states. He has also incurred medical costs, suffered a nondisplaced fracture of the right frontal sinus anteriorly and continues to experience headaches, the complaint says.

Cox claims Renth violated Constitutional law by striking him in the stomach and head for standing in the middle of the street, which Cox claims should have been merely a traffic violation and a non-jailable offense.

Also named as defendants in the suit are Madison Police Chief Steven Shelby and the city of Madison.

Cox blames Shelby for failing to provide adequate training to his officers. He says Madison maintained unwritten customs that allowed the use of excessive force while taking someone into custody.

In the six-count suit, Cox is seeking compensatory damages of more than $300,000, punitive damages of more than $250,000, attorneys' fees, costs, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief the court deems just.

He is represented by Jim Ellis of Ellis Law Firm in Belleville.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-890.

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