Testimony details fight in teen lawsuit


Testimony continued in federal court Tuesday as witnesses detail a struggle between the juvenile and an officer he’s suing.

In U.S. District Court at Pine Bluff, the second day of a trial was held in the lawsuit filed by Chadarious Avery, now 15, and his mother, Karen Walls.

The suit filed against Roderick Shelby, chief of staff for Juvenile Court Judge Earnest E. Brown Jr., alleges Shelby beat Avery while escorting him from the courtroom area to the detention center part of the building.

A deposition from court security officer Jose Rivera presented Tuesday said Rivera and Shelby were escorting Avery after Avery was ordered out of court by Brown when he began cursing his attorney and the judge. Rivera saw Avery strike Shelby while Shelby tried to control him, the document said.

Another witness testified Tuesday they saw Shelby grab Avery by the throat and slam him against a glass while a third testified that Shelby appeared to be trying to provoke Avery during the confrontation.

Jefferson County Sheriff Gerald Robinson was later added to the lawsuit with Avery and Walls alleging that Robinson failed to train and equip Shelby and other probation officers properly.

Rivera and Brown were originally named in the suit, but both were later dismissed by Avery’s attorney, Jason Boyeskie of Fayetteville.

Juvenile’s outburst

Questioned about the incident by Pine Bluff attorney Gene McKissic, who is representing Shelby, Avery said he was “mad” because he thought Brown was going to release him and allow him to go home. Instead, Brown told Avery that he would be held at the detention center for another month.

“You became irate didn’t you?” McKissic asked Avery.

“Yes sir,” Avery replied.

“You stood up and asked your attorney (Wilson Bynum) ‘what did he say?’ and in graphic terms you told him to go screw himself,’” McKissic said. “You continued to curse loud enough to attract the attention of the court and Judge Brown explained that he made the decision, not your lawyer.”

McKissic said Avery continued to curse Brown.

“You dropped the F-Bomb more than one time didn’t you?” McKissic asked.

“Yes sir,” Avery said.

After Avery was ordered out of the courtroom, he said Avery and Shelby started to escort him back to the detention center with Shelby in front and Avery behind him.

“Shelby had his back to you?” McKissic asked Avery.

“Yes sir,” Avery said.

“He also said ‘you’re not going to be showing out in my courtroom didn’t he?” McKissic said.

“Yes sir,” Avery replied.

The deposition from Rivera indicated that Shelby did not put his hands on Avery, did not raise his voice, and did not curse Avery.

Asked about that, Avery said he “couldn’t remember.”

Avery has claimed that Shelby kicked him in the face after the two were involved in an altercation but admitted when questioned by McKissic that Rivera had tackled him from behind and was holding him down on the floor.

Asked where Shelby kicked him in the face at, Avery said he “couldn’t remember.”

Testimony also indicated that when Shelby, Avery and Rivera reached the security door to the detention center, Shelby pressed the button to gain entry, but initially the door didn’t open because there was no one in the control tower to release the door.

“You had the opportunity to close your mouth and peacefully go inside the door didn’t you?” McKissic asked.

“Yes sir,” Avery said.

Avery also reportedly told Shelby “we’ll settle this when I get out of here,” and when asked if that was the proper thing to say to an adult, Avery said “no sir, I was mad.”

McKissic attempted to follow up on that, prompting an objection from Boyeskie and a conference at the bench before the trial continued.

Motions granted

On Monday, federal Judge Kristine Baker had granted motions by Boyeskie that forbid attorneys for Shelby and Robinson from bringing up any references to Avery’s prior records, history of fighting, and alleged gang affiliation.

“At the time you made that statement, you knew Shelby was an adult and an officer of the court and a police officer didn’t you?” McKissic asked Avery.

“I didn’t know he was a police officer,” Avery said.

“At that point in life, you had no respect for authority. Would that be a fair statement?” McKissic said.

“That would be fair,” Avery replied.

Early during his testimony, Avery said that he had played football this year and when questioned by McKissic, agreed that “no doctor has instructed you that anything that happened during this incident would have prohibited you from playing football.”

“You played every down and did what the coach told you to do didn’t you?” McKissic said.

“Yes sir,” Avery said.

After the altercation, Avery was taken to Health Care Plus where he was treated and released back into the custody of juvenile officers.

“You did not spend one day in the hospital. There was no surgery, there were no broken bones were there?” McKissic said.

“No sir,” Avery replied, agreeing also that he did not see a counselor or have any psychological trauma.

Boyeskie also called Sheriff’s Capt. Terry Peckham, who conducted an internal affairs investigation into Shelby’s actions at the request of Robinson and Major Lafeyette Woods Jr., operations commander of the department.

In conducting the investigation, Peckham said he viewed video tape of the incident, talked to Avery and his mother, other witnesses, and finally with Shelby before reaching his conclusions and making a recommendation to Robinson.

After an objection from McKissic was over-ruled, Peckham said his conclusion was that Shelby “had violated department policies and procedures,” including the use of force.

Troy Festervand, a maintenance man at the juvenile center, said he was in the laundry room adjacent to the kitchen of the detention center when he heard a commotion.

“I saw things that disturbed me,” he said. “I saw Shelby grab a young man by the throat with both hands and slam him into a window.”

On cross examination by McKissic, Festervand admitted that he didn’t see what happened before the altercation in the dining room, and didn’t know who started the altercation.

He also said he didn’t see Avery break away from Rivera and attack Shelby a second time in the dining room but admitted “it could have happened.”

Scott Donaldson, who formerly worked at the juvenile center, said he was working on the day of the incident and heard a commotion, then came out and saw Rivera holding Avery down.

“They were throwing punches but I don’t recall if any hit,” Donaldson said.

Asked what Shelby was doing after Avery was restrained again, Donaldson said “in my words, agitating.”

Avery and his mother are seeking compensatory and punitive damages against Shelby and Robinson, as well as court costs and attorney fees.