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Judge: Indy deputy used excessive force ‘sadistically and maliciously’

November 16, 2018

A former Marion County sheriff’s deputy used excessive force against a former jail inmate “sadistically and maliciously,” a federal judge determined, ruling in favor of the inmate and ordering a determination of damages he is owed.

Steven W. Pritt, 46, was being held briefly in the Marion County Jail in July 2016, when the record shows he was assaulted by a jail officer identified in court records as Deputy Brandau. Pritt, who is serving a 30-year sentence at New Castle Correctional Facility for a 2009 Marion County child molesting conviction, had been moved to the jail to attend post-conviction proceedings. 

As Brandau was escorting Pritt in handcuffs to a nurse for a medical exam, “Deputy Brandau stated to Mr. Pritt ‘we’re going up here to the elevator around the corner and down to the nurse.’ … As they rounded the corner, Deputy Brandau jerked Mr. Pritt to the side by his elbow, turned Mr. Pritt to face him, and used his forearm to slam Mr. Pritt’s chest into the wall, while stating ‘you don’t listen.’ … Deputy Brandau then took his right foot and stomped on Mr. Pritt’s left foot and then kneed Mr. Pritt in his right thigh,” Southern District Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson wrote in a Tuesday order.

“They arrived at medical and the nurse asked Mr. Pritt if he had any wounds or scratches. Deputy Brandau glared at Mr. Pritt and Mr. Pritt responded, ‘no, not yet,’’ Magnus-Stinson wrote. “… The nurse did not examine Mr. Pritt for any bruises and the rest of the examination focused on Mr. Pritt’s heart condition. … Mr. Pritt sustained a large bruise on his thigh. … Officer Brandau has no recollection of this incident.”

A spokeswoman for the sheriff's office said Brandau resigned from the department in November 2016. She referred questions about the litigation to the Indianapolis Office of Corporation Counsel, which did not immediately reply Friday.

Magnus-Stinson ruled it was undisputed that Brandau used excessive force against Pritt. Because the force was not used in a good-faith effort to maintain or restore discipline, and because there was no threat reasonably perceived by the deputy, his use of force violated Pritt’s Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. For similar reasons, the judge also rejected Brandau’s qualified immunity defense.

The judge granted Pritt’s pro se motion for summary judgment and rejected Brandau’s in Pritt v. Marion County Jail One et al., 1:16-cv-03125. https://ecf.insd.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_public_doc?12016cv3125-101  In ruling for Pritt, finding Brandau liable and ordering proceedings to determine damages, Magnus-Stinson also observed in a footnote the unusual nature of the deputy’s arguments against summary judgment for Pritt.

“Deputy Brandau did not designate any evidence, such as an affidavit in support of either his response in opposition to summary judgment or his cross-motion for summary judgment. However, in his response in opposition to Mr. Pritt’s motion for summary judgment, he does cite to evidence provided by Mr. Pritt to support the factual statement that Deputy Brandau has no recollection of the events that occurred on or about July 22, 2016,” the judge wrote in the footnote. “Based on Deputy Brandau’s reliance on Mr. Pritt’s evidence to support his factual statements, the Court does not understand why counsel could not present a more developed factual statement. The evidence Mr. Pritt provided, while unorthodox in its presentation, was not hidden or even time-consuming to read and understand.”

 

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