- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - A federal judge has awarded $225,000 to a former western Indiana jail inmate who filed an excessive force lawsuit alleging a jail officer put him in a chokehold and threw him to the ground.

The damages were awarded to Mitchell Barnes in a Tuesday ruling in the lawsuit Barnes filed in 2013 against former Vigo County Jail officer Brian Dawson.

Barnes’ attorney, Michael Sutherlin, said Thursday that Vigo County must pay $75,000 in compensatory damages and Dawson will be responsible for $150,000 in punitive damages.

Court records show Dawson, who no longer works at the county jail, did not appear for Tuesday’s hearing at which the judgment was entered against him, and do not list any attorney representing him in the case.

He told the TribuneStar (https://bit.ly/1FlLOcG) that he was not aware of court’s action but did recall being served with court papers in the case. A message seeking comment was left Friday for Dawson at his Indiana home by The Associated Press.

Vigo County Attorney Michael Wright declined to comment on the judgment, saying he wasn’t familiar with the lawsuit over the September 2012 incident at the county jail in Terre Haute.

Barnes, who was being held at the jail on a theft charge, said in his complaint that he has severe asthma and must receive twice-daily breathing treatments. He alleged that after Dawson three times rejected his request to be allowed to take his second treatment, he asked Dawson if he could speak to another office in charge.

Dawson escorted Barnes to another part of the jail, put him in a chokehold and slammed him to the floor, Barnes alleged. He said in court documents that he feared he might die and felt as though he was drowning.

Barnes said he was then handcuffed and placed in the jail’s drunk tank for several hours.

Barnes said he was accused of assaulting Dawson, but never was formally charged. He was sentenced to prison in 2013 as part of a plea agreement in the theft case.

Sutherlin, the attorney, said senior federal Judge Larry J. McKinney awarded the judgment after hearing testimony from Barnes and another former county jail inmate who won a judgment against Dawson.

McKinney also heard testimony from former jail officer Kim Hawkins, who has a federal lawsuit pending against Sheriff Greg Ewing alleging he was wrongfully terminated for complaining about prisoner abuse in the jail.


Information from: Tribune-Star, https://www.tribstar.com

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