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Teen Can Sue for Being Taunted and Tasered

(CN) - A federal judge refused to toss claims that sheriff's deputies repeatedly Tasered a black teenager and taunted him with racist jokes at the hospital.

The complaint stems from an adult-supervised party that a teenager identified only as A.S. attended with his girlfriend on Sept. 17, 2011, in San Lenadro, Calif.

Male partygoers had allegedly attacked A.S.'s girlfriend at the end of the evening, and A.S. stepped in to defend her.

After the attackers left the scene, A.S. began walking up a nearby hillside toward his house. At this point, Alameda County sheriff's deputies showed arrived and aimed their submachine guns with laser scopes at A.S.

A.S. was allegedly not aware of the deputies' presence until one of the deputies shouted, "Get the black guy!" The deputies then fired their Tasers, which hit A.S., causing him to fall to the ground, according to a complaint filed by the teen's mother Elisa Ramirez.

Even though A.S. was on the ground and complying with the deputies' commands, one of the deputies approached A.S. and Tasered him again. Another deputy placed a knee on A.S.'s neck and handcuffed him, according to the complaint.

While being treated at the hospital for cuts and bruises, A.S. allegedly endured racist jokes and taunting from the police officers.

The original complaint named the sheriff's department, Alameda County and Sheriff Gregory Ahern as defendants. Sgt. K. Ritter and Deputy Anthony Moschetti were eventually substituted for Does 1 and 2, and claims against Alameda County and Sheriff Ahern were dismissed.

Moschetti argued that all claims against him should be dismissed because A.S. did not serve him within 120 days of filing suit. He said that A.S. could have learned the names of the deputies involved in the incident at any time by obtaining a copy of the incident report from the sheriff's department.

A.S. argued that Moschetti has not been prejudiced by the delay because, as an employee of Alameda County, he has been on notice of the lawsuit since the time A.S. filed his government tort claim and since the time he filed his original complaint.

U.S. District Judge Maria-Elena James agreed with A.S., finding that Moschetti did not suffer any prejudice. James, therefore, exercised her discretion to extend the time to effect service.

James also found that dismissing the complaint for failure to state a claim was unwarranted, but ordered A.S. to provide a more definite statement.

"While plaintiff's FAC [first amended complaint] provides a short and plain statement of the claim for relief, it fails to put defendant on notice of the specific allegations against him," the ruling states. "The FAC refers to vague, unidentified 'deputies' as committing the alleged wrongs, without ever stating whether defendant Moschetti or defendant Ritter are even believed to be among those deputies."

The complaint fails to make clear connections between specific allegations and individual defendants, and is ambiguous as to whether the doe defendants are responsible for a particular claim, or whether defendants Moschetti or Ritter are responsible. "Although plaintiff maintains that he does not know which officer personally committed which act, he must, at a minimum, amend his FAC to make it clear which defendants are potentially responsible for a particular claim," James wrote.

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