Two south suburban middle-school students will receive a total of more than $90,000 in the settlement of a federal lawsuit claiming they were spanked by Harvey police officers wielding a plywood paddle. The first boy — who was 14 when he was allegedly spanked bare-bottom by an officer in the police station after being taken into custody following a fight at Gwendolyn Brooks Junior High — will have $74,000 put into a trust fund he'll be able to access when he turns 18, according to court papers.
A second boy who said he was spanked will get $20,000 in his trust fund. A third boy making similar spanking claims filed a separate federal lawsuit last week.
The lawsuits stem from what attorneys claim was a pattern of corporal punishment being doled out at the Harvey Police Department in early 2004.
"I hope it doesn't happen again," Harvey Police Chief Andrew Joshua said Tuesday.
The first boy, who now lives in Dolton, never was charged with a crime in connection with the schoolyard scuffle. But he said he needed to be treated at South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest for severe bruising after the Jan. 29, 2004, paddling at the hands of officer Ramonde Williams.
A boy from South Holland later added to the lawsuit claimed that on Jan. 21, 2004, he was taken into custody for a fight at Brooks. At the police station, he allegedly was spanked by a detective while several other officers looked on.
Under the terms of the settlement, the money put into the trust funds for the two boys can't be touched without a court order until their 18th birthdays. A city spokeswoman did not return phone calls Tuesday about other specifics of the settlement.
In court papers filed last year, city attorneys acknowledged Williams struck the Dolton boy's rump with a piece of plywood but insisted he was fully clothed and resisting arrest at the time. The city lawyers said the plywood paddle was discarded after the incident — and they convinced the federal judge handling the case to keep secret from the public an affidavit from Williams detailing the incident.
Joshua said Williams has since resigned from the department. Detective Marcell Hartwell remains the department's juvenile officer. Hartwell was accused of looking on during the spankings of the two boys and of wielding the paddle himself in the alleged spanking of the third boy. The chief couldn't recall if he was reprimanded after the spanking incidents, but noted "there was an internal investigation."
The new lawsuit filed last week says the boy paddled by Hartwell was dropped off at the police station by his mother for unspecified reasons in either February or March of 2004. The lawsuit demands damages of more than $45,000 and claims the spanking left the boy with "emotional anxiety, mental trauma, humiliation, fear, pain, suffering and future pain and suffering."
Chris Hack may be reached at email@example.com or (708) 633-5984.
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