Prisoner Receives $260,000 Settlement from Sacramento County In Federal Lawsuit re Excessive Use of Force in County Jail
The Sacramento Bee, April 20, 2009
Courtney Countee has settled a federal civil rights lawsuit against the County of Sacramento for $260,000. Mr. Countee’s case involved excessive use of force by officers at the Sacramento Main Jail in response to a non-violent protest by six prisoners in December of 2005.
A report on the incident by the Sacramento County District Attorney in 2006 confirmed that the officers behavior raised significant questions regarding jail operations and the treatment of prisoners at the facility. Mr. Countee, an African-American man with no history of violence, was being held at the time on a narcotics charge. His federal civil rights complaint alleged denial of medical attention, use of excessive and unnecessary force, and retaliation.
Mr. Countee was represented by Sanford Jay Rosen, Nura Maznavi, and Maria Morris of Rosen, Bien & Galvan in San Francisco and Geri Lynn Green of the Law Offices of Geri Lynn Green in San Francisco.
On December 1, 2005, officers at the Sacramento Main Jail, supervised by three probationary sergeants who were in charge of the jail at that time, detonated flash-bang grenades to extract Mr. Countee and five other prisoners from their cells, after the prisoners flooded their cells to protest inhumane conditions at the jail. In violation of appropriate practices and procedures, Mr. Countee was given no opportunity to exit his cell voluntarily, and a flash bang grenade was thrown into his cell through the feeding port, detonating just two feet from his face.
Mr. Countee was blinded, in pain and writhing prone on the floor. The officers rushed into the cell, beat and cuffed him, dragged him down the stairs and strapped him into a restraining chair, commonly called the devil’s chair. Mr. Countee was hooded and strapped down in the devil’s chair for more than two and a half hours without medical attention, despite suffering temporary blindness, deafness, burns and other injuries.
Many of these events were captured graphically by the Jail’s surveillance cameras and memorialized on a DVD that was provided to Mr. Countee’s attorneys by the defendants.
Sanford Jay Rosen, Mr. Countee’s co-counsel, commented, “Mr. Countee, who did nothing to resist these officers, was subjected to horribly inhumane treatment. The devil’s chair brings Abu Ghaib prison to mind. This was nothing short of torture.”
Geri Green, Mr. Countee’s co-counsel, concluded, “We’re pleased that the County has settled the case on terms favorable to our client, but unfortunately things have not really improved since these incidents took place at the Sacramento jail which is widely considered one of the worst in the state.” Settlements in excessive force claims over the past 10 years have cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.