A woman who claims she was locked in a flooded Alorton jail cell for days accuses the Alorton police department of engaging in continual acts of misconduct with no repercussions.
Pamela Cotton filed a lawsuit June 24 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against the City of Alorton, Michael Baxton Jr. and Michael Baxton Sr.
In her complaint, Cotton alleges she began experiencing trouble with the Alorton police officers on June 24, 2011, after her visit to TJ’s Mattresses. She had visited the store to dispute a recent purchase, according to the complaint.
As Cotton was discussing her concerns with the store’s owner, an Alorton police officer named Michael Baxton Jr., who was also present at the store, ordered Cotton to leave, the suit states. Complying with the Alorton police officer’s orders, Cotton got into her car and drove home in Centreville. As she was turning into her parking lot, Cotton noticed that Michael Baxton Jr. had followed her and boxed her into her parking spot, the complaint says.
Michael Baxton Jr. then approached Cotton’s vehicle, pounded her car window and ordered her to leave her vehicle, she claims.
Cotton complied with the request, but as soon as she had done so, Michael Baxton Jr. picked her up and slammed her onto the ground and onto his police vehicle several times, according to the complaint. He then handcuffed he, placed her feet in shackles and threw her into the back of the squad car, the suit states.
Cotton was arrested and was transported to the police station. Upon her arrival, Cotton asked Alorton Police Chief Michael Baxton Sr. why she was being arrested, the complaint says. Michael Baxton Sr. made no response and instead placed Cotton into a jail cell, she claims.
“The conditions of her confinement were so terrible they put plaintiff in substantial risk of serious harm and injury,” the complaint says. “Plaintiff’s cell was flooded and was covered in standing water throughout her confinement. The cell had no lights and no windows. Plaintiff was in complete darkness the entire time she was confined by Alorton.”
Cotton claims that other officers would taunt her and use derogatory language when they were near her cell. In addition, she was denied medical care and was not released until June 26 after a stay of two days, according to the complaint.
Following her incarceration, Cotton was never charged and never informed why she was arrested, the suit states.
Because of the incident, Cotton suffered physical and emotional injuries, incurred medical costs and was deprived of her Constitutional rights, the complaint says.
In fact, the situation Cotton explains is not unique in the Alorton Police Department, she claims.
For instance, in 2012, Michael Baxton Sr. was charged with theft, conversion of property and false statement when he kept three gaming consoles found in an abandoned vehicle for his own personal benefit as a result of a sting operation. He proceeded to lie to federal detectives about his actions, according to the complaint.
He pleaded guilty in January 2012 to stealing evidence and making false statements to federal investigators. He was sentenced in April 2012 to one year imprisonment.
In 2011, the Alorton police chief was charged with filing false tax returns when he claimed false dependents, the suit states.
And in 2008, an Alorton police officer was arrested for tampering with a witness, receiving stolen property, theft, conversion, false statements and willful failure to file a return when he stole evidence from crime scenes and police vaults, the complaint says.
Cotton names the Alorton Police Department as a defendant, saying it supports the misconduct complained of by failing to adequately train its officers and by failing to adequately punish prior instances of similar misconduct.
“The Alorton Police Department makes findings of wrongdoing in a disproportionally small number of cases,” the suit states.
In her complaint, Cotton is seeking compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees, punitive damages and other relief the court deems just.
Michael Gras of the Law Office of Christopher Cueto in Belleville will be representing her.
St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 13-L-315.