Judge Finds Excessive-Force Award Excessive

     AUSTIN (CN) – A federal judge has reduced a $1 million judgment on a Texas man’s excessive-force claims against two Austin police officers to just $60,000.
     U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks wrote in an April 30 order that plaintiff Carlos Chacon failed to provide enough evidence of pain and mental anguish in his federal lawsuit against Austin police officers Eric Copeland and Russell Rose.
     Chacon’s attorney, Erica Grigg, said Wednesday that her client has not decided whether to accept the judge’s reduced award or ask for a new trial on damages.
     “We are still trying to decide what to do,” Grigg said.
     An attorney for the city of Austin did not respond to a request for comment.
     Sparks order gave Chacon until May 14 to decide.
     Chacon, 56, sued officers over an incident that began in 2011, when he called 911 to report a prostitution ring being run out of an Austin motel. He told the 911 operator that a man, who was later identified as a pimp known to the Austin Police Department, was in possession of a gun and threatened to kill him.
     When Chacon arrived back to the motel, officers ordered him out of his vehicle and a scuffle broke out. Once on the ground, Chacon took two punches in the face from one officer and three Taser shocks from another.
     Chacon was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of resisting a search, which was later dismissed in Travis County court.
     Chacon received stitches to close the wound above his eye caused by the punches and treatment for various contusions and scrapes.
     After a two-day trial in March of this year, the jury found both officers used excessive force but granted qualified immunity to Copeland.
     “While the record support the jury’s findings regarding Officer Rose’s liability and lack of entitlement to qualified immunity, the jury’s damages award is clearly excessive in light of the evidence presented,” Sparks wrote in his 20-page order.
     He reduced the $300,000 award for past physical pain and mental anguish to $35,000 and the jury’s $300,000 judgment for past loss of capacity to just $25,000.
     “It is clear, however, that the evidence cannot support the jury’s $300,000 damages award, particularly given the inconclusive nature of the psychiatric records and absence of serious physical injuries,” Sparks wrote.
     He added that Chacon “produced no evidence whatsoever” to support $400,000 worth of future damages.

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