Virginia jury awards $ 300,000 to black woman injured by officer

A Virginia jury awarded $ 300,000 in damages to a black woman who sued a police officer for excessive force and false arrest after being forced face down on the sidewalk during a traffic stop.

RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) – A Virginia jury awarded $ 300,000 in damages to a black woman who sued a police officer for excessive force and false arrest after being forced face down on the sidewalk during a stop road.

The case began on February 12, 2015, when Monica Cromartie, then 54, was arrested for speeding. Cromartie said she got out of her car to protest the traffic stop, but obeyed an order from Petersburg policeman Brian Lee Billings when he told her to get back into the car.

According to Cromartie, after Billings asked her to roll down her car window, she told him to leave her alone as she complained to someone on her cell phone about the traffic stopping. Seconds later, she said, he pulled her out of his car, forced her to the ground and put his weight on her back, injuring her forehead, lip, teeth, right eyebrow. and both knees before she was handcuffed and shackled to her legs.

Most of the encounter was captured by a police body camera and shown during two trials.

Billings said in a deposition he got Cromartie out of the car to arrest him for obstructing justice.

In 2017, a jury awarded Cromartie $ 23,499 in damages for state law claims after it found that Billings had assaulted her, wrongfully jailed and maliciously prosecuted her for obstructing justice. However, the trial judge allowed a defense motion that the jury would not be allowed to decide Cromartie’s claims that Billings violated his Fourth Amendment rights against excessive force and false arrests, and for a search. illegal claim of his car and purse, concluding that he was entitled to immunity on these claims.

Cromartie appealed, and in 2020 the Virginia Supreme Court overturned the trial judge’s decision and found the officer to be responsible for all claims in Cromartie’s trial.

On Monday, a Petersburg circuit court jury awarded Cromartie $ 300,000 in punitive and compensatory damages.

“She was very happy that after carrying this case for six years of her life, she finally got the verdict on the constitutional claims she was pursuing, demonstrating that the conduct of this officer was not acceptable to the city ​​of Petersburg or for the state, ”said Andrew Bodoh, one of his lawyers.

Lawyer Tom Roberts, who also represented Cromartie in his lawsuit, said she suffered from persistent physical and psychological injuries, including a scar above her eye and a missing tooth. He said the jury heard testimony that after meeting Billings, Cromartie did not call the police in two incidents, one involving the threat of domestic assault by her ex-husband and the other when a neighbor showed up to her house with a baseball bat after an argument with her grandchildren.

“She chose not to call the police because of her experience with Constable Billings which clearly made her fearful of interacting with the police in the very situation that the police should have been called,” said Roberts.

St. Petersburg police did not immediately respond to two emails seeking comment on Tuesday. Billings, who retired from the police service months after the encounter, testified that he was not punished for his actions. Billings did not immediately respond to an email or message left on Tuesday on a phone number listed in his name.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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