This week we filed yet another federal excessive force and civil rights lawsuit in Parkersburg, West Virginia. This one is a little bit different though, because city officials, as well as the City of Parkersburg, are included as defendants. See exhibit “1” below for more information.
News and Sentinel article from June 7:
A lawsuit involving former city police officer Joshua Vensel, Mayor Bob Newell, Police Chief Joe Martin and the City of Parkersburg has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
In the suit, filed Wednesday, the plaintiff Jerry Seabolt also listed six unnamed officers, referred to as John Doe, as defendants. The filing stems from a criminal case where Vensel pleaded guilty to committing battery on Seabolt at the Wood County Holding Center.
Seabolt alleges the mayor, chief and city developed and encouraged “a policy, custom, pattern and practice of using excessive force against arrestees and pretrial detainees” and have continued to implement their policy of using excessive force.
Seabolt is represented by John H. Bryan, of Union, W.Va., and Parkersburg attorney Michelle Rusen. Bryan represented Brian Sawyer, who sued the Wood County Sheriff’s Department and former Deputy Jim Asbury, alleging excessive force. A federal jury acquitted Asbury, but U.S. District Court Judge Joseph R. Goodwin overturned the verdict on May 18.
News and Sentinel article from June 8:
The city will seek immediate summary judgment of both cases and seek reimbursement of attorney fees and other costs, Mayor Bob Newell stated.
“All the evidence in the Vensel and Seabolt incident has been viewed and considered by a grand jury. The evidence is absolutely indisputable that Vensel struck Mr. Seabolt without provocation and Vensel has taken full responsibility for his actions and has pleaded guilty in Wood County Circuit Court. He resigned the same day as the plea was made,” Newell stated.
Newell took issue with the assertion made by Seabolt’s attorneys Michelle Rusen and John Bryan. He labeled the assertions “unwarranted and inexcusable.”
Newell stated he was disappointed Rusen would use the information as a basis for naming the mayor and chief in a suit in which Vensel had already taken full responsibility.
Newell stated formal complaints have been filed with the Offices of Disciplinary Counsel in the State of West Virginia and State of Ohio against Triplett for his conduct.
FYI, these allegations were made in the Complaint above:
By denigrating the victims of excessive force and their lawyers in the news
media when such cases were prosecuted, Defendant Newell has defended this
conduct, thereby effectively ensuring that such policy, practice and custom of using
excessive force will continue. Defendant Newell”s conduct in this regard has also had a
chilling effect by obscuring the truth behind serious allegations of use of excessive
Charleston Gazette article from today:
Bryan said Seabolt hopes to call the alleged policy to light.
“Rather than to attempt to settle his case quickly and quietly as others have done, my client has courageously chosen to address the issue from the top down,” he said, “in order to ensure that the people of Parkersburg never again have to fear for their physical safety at the hands of those entrusted to protect them.”