Las Vegas Sun

August 29, 2016

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Court upholds $1.6 million judgment against officers in use-of-force case

A federal appeals court panel has upheld a $1.6 million judgment against three Las Vegas police officers who handcuffed a man and used excessive force on the individual, who was not a suspect.

The three-judge panel said Monday the three officers were not entitled to qualified immunity in the confrontation with Charles Barnard.

According to the court's written decision, the Metro Police officers — Greg Theobald, Gary Clark and Steven Radmanovich — arrived at Bernard's home near midnight on Dec. 8, 2001, with an arrest warrant for Barnard’s brother David.

Barnard answered the door and the officers, with guns drawn, handcuffed him. The brother was asleep in the bedroom.

During the confrontation, one of the officers tripped over a flower pot, sending Barnard to the floor on top of one of the officers and another on top of him, according to the court documents.

Clark then placed a chokehold on Barnard, who was also pepper sprayed in the face during the encounter. One of the officers put his knee in the back of Barnard, and Barnard was arrested for resisting arrest. His brother was also taken into custody.

Barnard was held in jail for three days before being released, according to the decision. He maintains he suffered spinal injuries — for which he underwent nine spinal surgeries — inflicted by the police officers.

The panel said police officers are not entitled “to use any amount of force to restrain a suspect” in instances where there is resistance to orders by officers.

The panel’s decision, written by Senior District Judge James Carr, said the $1.6 million judgment was entered in August 2011.

U.S. District Judge Clive Jones had reduced the attorney fees sought by Barnard from $315,505 by 40 percent to $189,303. Jones found 600 hours by lawyers and the 200 hours by paralegals was excessive.

The panel said Jones failed to explain why the 40 percent reduction was justified. It sent the case back to Jones to adequately explain how he arrived at the number.

Attorneys listed for Barnard were Paola Armeni, Margaret Lambrose and Gordon Silver.

The federal panel also said Jones abused his discretion in refusing pre-judgment and post-judgment interest to Barnard. The case returns to Jones to consider those issues.

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