Baring a last-minute settlement, a federal court jury will decide the case of a juvenile who alleged he was beaten while being held at the juvenile detention center last year in Pine Bluff.
Chaderioius Avery, who was 14 at the time, said in the lawsuit that Roderick Shelby, who was chief of staff for Juvenile Judge Earnest Brown Jr., punched him in the face and kicked him while he was being escorted back to the detention center after an appearance is court.
Avery and his mother, Karen Walls, are suing Shelby and Sheriff Gerald Robinson, alleging that Robinson failed to train and supervise Shelby, who prior to going to work at juvenile court, was a full-time deputy and afterward a part-time officer.
Robinson argues that Shelby and another juvenile officer, Jose Rivera, were not employees of the sheriff’s department and not under the supervision of the sheriff’s department at the time of the incident. Rivera was assisting Shelby in escorting Avery when the alleged altercation broke out.
Both Brown and Rivera were also named in the original lawsuit, but the claims against Brown were dismissed in March and against Rivera several weeks ago.
The case is currently set for trial during the week of Dec. 17 at the Federal Courthouse at Pine Bluff.
Attorneys for Robinson and Shelby have asked Judge Kristine Baker, who will hear the case, to dismiss the allegations against both men in their official capacity, arguing that there are “no material facts in dispute.”
Robinson also wants the court to dismiss the claims against him in his individual capacity, saying he is entitled to “qualified immunity as there are no material facts in dispute which would prevent his dismissal at this juncture.”
Fayetteville attorney J. Jason Boyeskie, who is representing Avery and Walls, has asked the judge not to dismiss the claims and to allow the case to continue to trial.
In a brief filed in support of that motion, Boyeskie argued that neither Shelby or Rivera received a juvenile training course or jailer’s course, which are required of detention center employees.
“Neither Shelby or Rivera, despite being employed and supposedly trained by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, ever received the training,” Boyeskie said in the court brief. “This Sheriff’s Department training, which is actually more detailed than the state mandate minimum, involves the constitutional rights of detainees, handcuffing techniques and defensive tactics.”
After an internal investigation, Shelby was fired as a part-time sheriff’s deputy and Boyeskie said, “Robinson agreed with the conclusions of his investigators that excessive force was used that day.”
In dismissing Brown from the suit, the federal court said “it is clear that Shelby was acting in his official capacity as a deputy for the Sheriff’s Department during the attack on Avery and not in his capacity as Judge Brown’s chief of staff.”
That ruling was made by Federal Judge Brian Miller, who was initially assigned the case, which is now being heard by Baker.
Regarding Robinson and Shelby’s claim that they should be dismissed in their official capacity, Boyeskie argued that, “The facts of this case make clear that Sheriff Robinson and the Sheriff’s Department had two standards of training: One for juvenile detention officers and one for juvenile probation officers, despite both having approval to escort juvenile detainees throughout the facility. Juvenile detention officers were also provided additional equipment, including handcuffs, which were specifically authorized and identified by the (Sheriff’s Department) Use of Force policy as an alternative to the gross and excessive physical force utilized by Shelby upon Avery.
“Shelby as a probation officer did not receive this training or equipment; additionally he does not recall any training that he received in regards to defensive tactics, and there is no evidence that indicates that he actually ever received such as training at ALETA (Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy) or during the course of his employment with the sheriff’s office,” Boyeskie said in the court filing. “It was this disparity in training levels that amounts to deliberate indifference on the part of the Sheriff’s office to allow juveniles to be handled by improperly trained individuals and the lack of that specific juvenile jailer training was the resulting cause of Avery’s injuries.”
According to Walls, who told The Commercial last year that when she saw her son a day after the incident, “both his eyes were blackened; he had cuts and bruises to his arms, legs, face and neck and scrapes and abrasions to his legs” from shackles the boy had been wearing when he was taken to court. He had not been handcuffed.
The lawsuit claimed that Shelby “fractured his hand” during the incident.
On July 25, 2011, Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter said that after reviewing the results of the internal investigation into the incident at the juvenile detention center, no criminal charges would be filed against Shelby.
“By this decision not to file criminal charges, I am not indicating an opinion into the appropriateness or inappropriateness of Mr. Shelby’s conduct regarding this situation,” Hunter said in a news release. “A Civil Case has been filed in Federal Court and those issues will be decided in that forum.”
Hunter has declined further comment on the matter.
In addition to seeking actual and compensatory damages, Boyeskie is seeking punitive damages, attorney fees, costs and expenses.
Both sides asked for a jury trial.