upset him. He told her to come back, saying "Renee, I'm not done
talking to you." He admits he may have said as well that you don't want
to go to jail for this. He "couldn't believe she just continued walking
away." He followed her, placing her under arrest.
Various witnesses to part of the incident also testified. Cynthia
Kudla, a recreation leader at Rowen Park since 1990, testified that she
was in the room in which Ms. Martinez came when she left the gymnasium.
There were 40 or 50 children in the room, as well as 10 to 20 parents.
She saw Mr. Gonzalez pulling back on Ms. Martinez' thumb, pushing it
toward her wrist. Jean Tourville, an employee of the Chicago Park
district for 30 years, an instructor and the Day Camp Director, testified
that she was in the room with Ms. Kudla, that there were approximately 50
students and 20 parents in the room when Ms. Martinez came running in,
asking for help because Mr. Gonzalez wanted to arrest her, and that she
saw Mr. Gonzalez put handcuffs on Ms. Martinez. She said she told Mr.
Gonzalez to stop it, that Ms. Martinez began crying and saying he was
hurting her, that the children became upset, that it looked like Mr.
Gonzalez was hurting Ms. Martinez, that Ms. Martinez asked her to call
the police. When she later went to Mr. Hooper's office to say the show
was late in starting, she heard someone say that if Ms. Martinez would
apologize Mr. Gonzalez would let her go. The following day Ms. Martinez
showed Ms. Tourville that she had bruises on her wrist, both hands and
upper arm. Mr. Hooper testified that Mr. Gonzalez said a couple of times
that he did not like the way Ms. Martinez was "treating his kid."
Having heard the testimony and observed the demeanor of the witnesses,
I conclude that Ms. Martinez' version is more credible than Mr.
Gonzalez. It seems doubtful at any rate that if Ms. Martinez had said the
words to Mr. Gonzalez' son that he says were said that it would have put
him in imminent fear of a battery,*fn4 but I conclude that the words
were not said. Ms. Martinez knew that Mr. Gonzalez was a policeman, he
was sitting next to his son, and the words would seem to have been both
unnecessary and foolish. It was also clear from Mr. Gonzalez' demeanor as
well as his words that much of his complaint was that Ms. Martinez did
not defer to his status as a policeman. He was also substantially
impeached on various points with respect to his treatment of Ms. Martinez
while she was under arrest.
Mr. Gonzalez admits that he was acting under color of law, that is by
exerting his authority as a police officer, at the time of Ms. Martinez'
arrest (Answer, ¶ 58; stipulation on jury instructions in previous
trial). He says he did, however, have probable cause for the arrest. The
basis for his claim of probable cause has changed over time. In his third
party complaint against the city, he stated that he had taken Ms. Martinez
into custody "for the crime of misdemeanor battery." (¶ 6) To Ms.
Martinez, on the day in question, he stated that he could arrest her for
what she had done to his son. At trial, he admitted she had not touched
son, and stated that he had decided to arrest her because she had
assaulted his son. In his answer to the complaint, he also denied that he
had threatened to arrest Ms. Martinez because he did not like her
attitutde and denied as well that Ms. Martinez pulled away from him in
the gymnasium. (Answer, pars. 13, 14). During closing argument in this
trial, Mr. Gonzalez' attorney at one point appeared to argue that
probable cause for the arrest arose from the fact that Ms. Martinez walked
away from Mr. Gonzalez but in response to specific questions from me he
stated that he was not making such a claim. Since any such claim would be
inconsistent with Mr. Gonzalez' answer in this case, with other
pleadings, and with his testimony at trial, and with his specific
statement in closing argument, I conclude that probable cause, if it
existed, was dependent upon Mr. Gonzalez' belief that he had probable
cause to believe that Ms. Martinez had committed an assault on his son. I
have found that Ms. Martinez did not commit an assault on Mr. Gonzalez'
son. Whether she actually committed an assault is not the test, however.
"A law enforcement officer has probable cause to make an arrest when `the
facts and circumstances within his knowledge and of which he has
reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient to warrant a prudent
person in believing that the suspect had committed . . . an assault.'"
Jones by Jones v. Webb, 45 F.3d 178, 181 (7th Cir. 1995), quoting from
Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91 (1964) (brackets omitted). This is a
factual inquiry. I conclude that Mr. Gonzalez did not have probable cause
to believe Ms. Martinez had committed an assault. All that Ms. Martinez
had done, and all of this was done with the knowledge of Mr. Gonzalez,
was to bring his son over to him and ask Mr. Gonzalez to keep his son off
the equipment. No reasonable person could conclude that this gave a
police officer probable cause for an arrest.
Mr. Gonzalez admits that he arrested Ms. Martinez. The restraint was,
therefore, intentional. It is undisputed that Ms. Martinez did not
consent to the restraint, and that it was against her will. I also find
that Mr. Gonzalez not only knew that he did not have probable cause to
arrest her, but he intentionally and maliciously used his authority as a
police officer to intimidate, humiliate and harm Ms. Martinez. Mr.
Gonzalez is liable for damages.
Ms. Martinez' damages would ordinarily appear to include the physical
injuries she suffered due to Mr. Gonzalez' treatment of her while she was
in handcuffs. A jury, however, found him not liable for the use of
excessive force, despite corroborated evidence from which it might have
found the contrary. Despite this verdict, the preponderance, even the
overwhelming, evidence is that she suffered some physical pain, leaving
bruises and swelling, as a direct result of her arrest and Mr. Gonzalez'
treatment of her while she was in his custody. These are direct damages
stemming from the arrest. I find that Ms. Martinez' damage for her pain
and suffering from these injuries is $3,000. There is no doubt that the
greater harm was her humiliation and embarrassment and the probable harm
to her reputation from the public arrest. While the time she was in
custody was short, the public arena in which it occurred magnified the
harm way beyond what would otherwise have been the case. This harm was
lasting, and indeed, Ms. Martinez testified that she continues to suffer
from the public embarrassment in a community in which she has lived all
her life. I find that her damages for humiliation, embarrassment and harm
to reputation are $20,000. I also award punitive damages in the
$5,000. Mr. Gonzalez' action was intentional, malicious, and done with
the full intention of causing the harm that it did. A greater award would
be warranted but given Mr. Gonzalez' family financial responsibilities
and the lack of evidence to show that he could afford a greater amount, I
have limited the award.
Judgment will be entered for $28,000, plus attorney's fees and costs.
42 U.S.C. § 1988.