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Excessive force?

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Chuck Lawler, 53, doesn’t dispute that he was driving while intoxicated when he was arrested by Taylor police. Lawler also doesn’t dispute that it was his third drunken driving offense in the past decade, which constitutes a felony and could put him in jail for up to a year, according to his attorney, Earl Ward.

What Lawler does dispute is that he “obstructed” a police officer and “resisted” arrest while he was being processed at the Taylor Police Department in February.

Lawler says the charges were added after several officers pummeled him and one broke his arm. The incident occurred after he mouthed off, says Lawler.

City of Taylor attorney Gina Puzzuoli says the district court judge found probable cause for the charges against Lawler and sent the criminal case to Wayne County Circuit Court for trial.

In April, the City of Taylor offered to drop the resisting and obstructing charges against Lawler if he agreed not to sue for the broken arm, says Ward, who advised his client to reject the deal.

They then asked Lawler to plead guilty to the charges in exchange for reducing his third drunken driving offense to a second offense, according to Ward, who again advised his client not to take the deal.

Lawler had agreed to plead guilty to his third drunken driving offense, if the department dropped the obstruction and resisting arrest charges, says Ward, but the city didn’t go for it.

Puzzuoli says she cannot comment on the details of the ongoing criminal case.

Ward has videotape of the incident, which was captured on a police department camera and allegedly proves the police are at fault; the video was shown to the district court judge who found probable cause for the charges against Lawler.

“The video and police statements are not consistent,” says Ward, who would not show the video to News Hits, but plans to show it to a jury; the case is scheduled for trial in August. He says his client also might sue.

“If he was resisting, which he wasn’t, that gives them no right to break his arm,” says Ward.

Lawler is not the first person to accuse Taylor police of using excessive force; most of the cases have been dismissed.

Randy Schliewe sued Taylor police for breaking his jaw and failing to get him medical attention. Schliewe obtained a police videotape of the alleged abuse, which has been seen by Metro Times. In his lawsuit, Schliewe claimed that his jaw was broken by Officer Troy Toro — the same officer who Lawler says broke his arm. U.S. District Court Judge Bernard A. Friedman dismissed Schliewe’s complaint earlier this year.

(News Hits called the Taylor police department to talk to Toro, but was told he is no longer with the department.)

In 2002, Tina Hayes sued the City of Taylor and several officers for excessive force, false arrest and other illegal acts. Last summer she asked the city to turn over citizen complaints of alleged excessive force, investigations of such complaints and other records, according to her attorney, Cynthia Heenan, who suspects the documents may show a pattern of police brutality and the city’s failure to address it.

A protective order barring release of those documents was approved earlier this year; Heenan is appealing.

Puzzuoli filed a motion to dismiss Hayes’ case; a hearing is scheduled for later this year.

Puzzuoli told News Hits in a previous interview that Hayes’ lawsuit has no merit and the protective order prevents her from sharing false claims about the officers with the press.

“They are putting out these allegations and so far none have held up in court,” said Puzzuoli.

Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com

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