Legislator Awarded $50,000 in Suit for Damages Caused by Tight Handcuffs

A Pennsylvania state legislator from Philadelphia, Jewell Williams, has received an award of $50,000 from a jury in a lawsuit over injuries he sustained in 2009 when police unlawfully detained him. He claimed that “excessively tight handcuffs” caused nerve damage to his wrist and thumb. He further claimed that police violated his constitutional rights by detaining him after he questioned police officers about stopping two elderly men. A spokesperson for Williams said the jury agreed with Williams’ constitutional claim. An attorney for the City of Philadelphia told the media, however, that Williams had previously rejected a settlement offer of $65,000. Williams, for his part, may prefer the vindication in court to any specific dollar amount.

Williams has served as the Democratic representative for District 197 in Philadelphia since 2001. He previously worked as a Temple University police officer. He was elected sheriff of the city of Philadelphia in November 2011 and will take office shortly. The lawsuit arose from an incident in March 2009, when Williams says he tried to assist two “elderly constituents” during a traffic stop. Williams alleged that he saw police pull over a gray Volvo that police said resembled a car used in a drug buy several blocks away. Williams witnessed the stop from several car lengths back while driving home, and eventually got out of his vehicle to intervene.

Williams says he watched one police officer order the driver, whom Williams described as elderly and frail, out of the vehicle. The officer placed the man’s money on the hood of the car. When the man tried to grab at the money as it blew away, the officer alleged shoved him against the car and cuffed him. The man then complained that the cuffs were too tight, and the officer allegedly threatened something to the effect of taking the man to the hospital. A passenger in the Volvo, also described as elderly, was detained by the other officer. This is when Williams got out of his car and approached the officers.

Two more officers had arrived at the scene at this point. Williams says he identified himself as a state legislator, but that the officers yelled profanity at him when telling him to return to his vehicle. Police cuffed him and pushed him into the back of one of the cruisers, telling him he was under arrest for disorderly conduct. Police did not find any drugs in the Volvo or on either person from the Volvo. Police released Williams and the other two men shortly thereafter.

Williams suffers from diabetes and said he still had not regained full use of his left thumb when he filed his lawsuit in October 2010. Both of the men in the Volvo joined him as plaintiffs. They named the city of Philadelphia and all four officers involved in the incident as defendants. Williams claimed damages for his injuries as well as violations of his constitutional rights. Media reports do not indicate what damages the other two men claimed, or what amount of money, if any, the jury awarded them.

The Maryland accident injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen are experienced at pursuing justice for people injured due to the unlawful or negligent actions of others. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.

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