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A federal jury on Tuesday found a former St. George police officer violated a man's Fourth Amendment rights during a 2006 investigation, but awarded the victim just $5,000 of the $1 million he was seeking.
Mark Plascencia, a South American native and a naturalized U.S. citizen, sued former St. George police officer Jared Taylor in January 2007 for violating his constitutional rights because of his national origin and skin color.
After a five-day trial before U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart, the jury found Taylor violated Plascencia's Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable seizures and excessive force.
"He was vindicated and I guess that counts for something," Plascencia's attorney, Clark Newhall said. "He got to tell his story and he was proven right."
According to the suit, Plascencia left his cellphone at a St. George restaurant on April 28, 2006, and called the number looking for it the next day. Taylor, who was given the phone after an elderly couple said they found it in their home and reported a possible break-in, answered the phone and told Plascencia to meet him at the restaurant.
When Plascencia arrived, Taylor handcuffed him without questioning him, the lawsuit states. Plascencia said Taylor hit his legs repeatedly with a baton, bent his arms backwards, and tightened the handcuffs further when Plascencia complained of pain, court documents state.
Plascencia said he blacked out and was taken to a hospital because doctors believed he had suffered a heart attack.
Newhall said the couple who reported finding the phone ate at Plascencia's restaurant and used the cellphone to call a family member before calling police. That's information the jury was not allowed to hear, Newhall said.
Taylor's attorney, Peter Stirba, said he was pleased the judge dismissed Plascencia's claims against the city of St. George and its police department. Taylor will now weigh his appellate options, Stirba said.