Richmond, Va. — An Army lieutenant who asked a jury to send a message to every single police officer in the United States that the way two officers treated him during a traffic stop was unacceptable has not received the conviction he hoped for It was
Army Lieutenant Karen Nazario suing the authorities Joseph Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker for $1.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages after a traffic stop This happened two years ago.
Just before 3 p.m. Tuesday, the jury returned a verdict that was not in line with that monetary amount.
Instead, Crocker was ordered to pay Nazario $1,000 for the search of his vehicle, which a judge had already ruled was illegal, and Gutierrez to pay him $2,685 in damages for assault.
Jonathan Arthur, an attorney with Thomas H. Roberts & Associates who represented Nazario, said, “We are pleased that the jury has determined that there are some things they will not tolerate. Obviously, we are disappointed that they have determined That there are things that they will do.”
The jury came to its verdict unanimously, and jurors were given full discretion if they believed the officers assaulted, assaulted, wrongfully imprisoned, or illegally searched their car , So how much money did they want to pay.
Richard Matthews, an attorney for Pender Coward, said, “Thanks for a job well done, well argued. He took a lot of time with this decision. He took half a day Friday, he took the better part of the day today.” ” said someone representing Crocker.
Nazario’s lawyers had argued that he was assaulted and wrongfully imprisoned when he was pepper sprayed, hit and handcuffed during a December 2020 traffic stop.
They said that Crocker acted inappropriately in assuming that Nazario was preparing to ambush him when he started his siren and illuminated a missing license plate.
Because of that assumption, Crocker called the stop a felony traffic stop and immediately pulled his gun on Nazario when Nazario stopped at a gas station.
Arthur argued that Nazario was too scared to exit the vehicle and comply because the weapons were drawn on him and because Gutierrez had told him it was “okay to ride the lightning” and to be afraid to get out. needed.
“So, the jury basically said that the way Crocker handled the stop and drew lethal force straight off the bat was acceptable, so what should people do in the future?” CBS6 reporter Melissa Hippolit, who covered the case exhaustively, asked Arthur.
“Well, that’s a good question, but clearly this special jury determined that was not excessive under the circumstances,” Arthur replied.
Under the circumstances, which were argued by the defendants’ attorneys, Crocker engaged Nazario 1.1 miles after starting his lights and siren and failed to pull over at several other possible locations, Nazario had a rear license. The plate was not there, Nazario had expired tags tinted in the color of his rear window, and Nazario is driving a new SUV.
Crocker testified that he thought the vehicle might have contained drugs or contraband.
At trial, Arthur also stated that the use of OC spray on Nazario and the knee strike by Officer Gutierrez were improper uses of force that constituted assault and battery.
But Gutierrez’s lawyers argued they were necessary because Nazario refused to obey officers’ orders to get out of the car.
A psychologist and psychiatrist, who are treating Nazario, both told the jury that he had PTSD and an anxiety disorder as a result of the incident. However, a psychiatrist who testified for the defendants said that she did not believe that Nazario had any psychiatric condition, and instead that he had suffered a “narcissistic injury” or a wounded ego.
Nazario’s lawyers said they believed there were appealable issues in the case and would raise them in court. Nazario told reporters that he would prefer to comment on the decision at a later date.
Lawyers for the officers said the jury’s verdict shows that the officers’ actions were generally justified.
“The jury had the opportunity to view the videotapes extensively, three of them, one from their own point of view, two from the police officers, and to go through every alleged atrocity that we were challenged to and the only thing they found was There was an assault and a very small amount of damages against Officer Gutierrez, said attorney Richard Matthews. And against our client, Officer Crocker, $1,000 in damages for the search, which we concede did not follow due process. While the verdict appears to have been fair, it was courageous on the part of the jury given the political climate. And we’re very happy.”
“What’s your advice to drivers coming out of this?” Hippolyte asked Mathews.
“Obey the law when a policeman pulls up behind you and turns on your blue light. Pull over and then cooperate. Do not refuse to exit the car if asked to do so,” replied Mathews .
This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email [email protected] to submit a tip.