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Lawsuit by Tasered biker settled

CHESAPEAKE — A high-profile civil rights violation case won’t go to trial, after all parties involved recently agreed to a settlement.

In a conference last week before U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett attorneys for Anthony Patrick of Huntington, W.Va., and various Lawrence County and village of Chesapeake officials approved an undisclosed settlement, thereby ending the case.

“Tony is satisfied with the settlement,” Patrick’s Cincinnati-based attorney Steven Magas said. “I think there was some justice done. I think our case and the discovery that was conducted, there were to be some issues that were going to be problematic to the sheriff and the village of Chesapeake.”

In August of 2009, Patrick filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Western Division naming current Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless, Sheriff’s Deputy Charles Hammonds, Chesapeake Police Chief Dennis Gibson, former Chesapeake Police Chief Russell Bennett and the village of Chesapeake as defendants.

The lawsuit focused on an incident that had happened a year ago that hit the national radar when an account of it by Bob Mionske entitled “Road Rights” was published in “Bicycling,” a national monthly magazine and on its Web site, bicycling.com.

In mid-August 2008, Patrick and a juvenile who is a nationally ranked racer, were biking through Chesapeake as part of an endurance ride through Lawrence County before returning to Huntington. As they came through the village they claimed they were stopped without cause, Tasered and subsequently arrested by Hammonds and Gibson, who was a village patrolman at that time.

Patrick, then 37, was taken to Lawrence County Jail where he was charged with obstructing official business, resisting arrest, attempted assault on a police officer and operating a bike on the road. He was later released on a $25,000 bond. The juvenile was released to his parents.

In his report Hammonds described the cyclists as confrontational and disrespectful, refusing to ride in single file or at reasonable speed.

When the case was brought to the Lawrence County Municipal Court, Patrick faced a charge of disorderly conduct; resisting arrest; failure to comply; and operating a bike on the road. The case was set for trial on Jan. 30, 2009; however, it was dismissed without prejudice on Jan. 12.

In his 11-page opinion, which was later published in the Ohio State Bar Association Report, Judge Donald Capper addressed the possible violation of Patrick’s Fourth Amendment right, which protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Although he had not been elected sheriff at the time of the incident, Lawless inherited the case after he took office in January of 2009.

“I am certainly glad to get it behind us so we can move forward,” Lawless said about the settlement. “Our objective is to make our roads safe for everyone. Certainly this situation doesn’t reflect how we conduct things normally.”

Because of a confidentiality agreement, the dollar amount of the settlement was not released. However, it is expected that the insurance companies for the sheriff’s office and the village of Chesapeake will pay the amount.

“It was left up to the insurance companies to settle it,” Chesapeake Mayor Dick Gilpin said. “We didn’t have much say in it. I am glad it is over with. I am happy it is done with.”