Judge throws out excessive force lawsuit against jail deputies

News-DemocratMarch 28, 2014 

— A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit against Madison County sheriff's deputies alleging excessive force at the jail.

Inmate Robert Baker-El Jr., 46, was in custody at the Madison County Jail in September 2011 when deputies received a written note from another inmate that Baker-El had a "shank," or makeshift weapon hidden in his pants.

The cellblock was locked down and three deputies questioned Baker-El, who refused to be searched.

According to the deputies, Baker-El lunged at them, so they used pepper spray on him and restrained him. They said he tried to get back up, and so they had to strike him to keep him down. A sharpened piece of plastic made from a deodorant bottle was found in his hand, according to the deputies.

According to Baker-El's lawsuit filing, it was a "homemade spoon." He alleged that one deputy maced him without warning and struck him repeatedly while the other two held him down.

Attorneys for Madison County argued the case before U.S. District Judge Michael J. Reagan earlier this month, who granted a motion for summary judgment that effectively closed the case.

Reagan's opinion said that Baker-El's own allegations -- admitting that he had the "spoon" and refused to hand it over when asked -- meant that without proof of excessive force, there was no fact in dispute that would be worth going to trial.

After the altercation, Baker-El was treated in the jail's infirmary, where he received stitches and pain medication.

Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons said the attorneys' work resulted in "getting another baseless lawsuit against Sheriff Bob Hertz and his department thrown out of court. Their continued success saves the county money while protecting the dedicated men and women who serve our county as law enforcement officers."

Baker-El was in Madison County awaiting trial. He is now serving a 29-year prison sentence for aggravated robbery and possession of contraband in a penal instutition. He is incarcerated at Lawrence Correctional Center.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 618-239-2507.

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