Court awards $46,500 to man abused while in police custody

By Bill Jaynes The Kaselehlie Press June 27, 2017 Pohnpei, FSM
—On June 23, over six years after Ramon Ioanis filed a lawsuit seeking monetary damages for abuse by police officers and jail staff, the Pohnpei State Supreme Court finally awarded him $46,500. Attorney Martin Jano provided a hard copy of the “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law” issued by Pohnpei Supreme Court Associate Justice Nickontro Johnny on April 4, 2017. Johnny said that the plaintiff’s story of the events leading to his arrest, including where the arrest took place were inconsistent over the course of the case but he was consistent in his claims of abuse while in police custody. Ioanis consistently claimed that on April 12, 2010, two Pohnpei State Police officers arrested him, handcuffed and placed him face-down in the back of their patrol car. He claimed that one of the officers struck him in the head and kicked him in the side as he was lying helpless in the car. Once he arrived at the jail, he was locked in a cell with hands still cuffed behind his back. A short time later, a corrections officer entered his cell and put ankle cuffs on him as well. He claimed that he was left in both sets of cuffs for the entire eleven days of his incarceration.


His wife testified that while Ioanis was incarcerated, she visited the jail five times and was denied opportunity to see her husband on each occasion. Though the court found that the testimony of events that occurred before the arrest was inconsistent, it found the testimony of events after his arrest to be credible. Johnny said that whether Ioanis was drunk or sober when he was arrested has no bearing on whether he was unlawfully battered by one of the officers. As to the injuries to his wrists and ankles from having been hand cuffed, Johnny did not accept the police explanation that Ioanis was mentally unstable and needed to be restrained.
“If Plaintiff was mentally unstable and needed to be restrained, the jail supervisor should have notified the Plaintiff’s family and a mental health professional at the Department of Health, who could have sought a commitment order from the Court. If Plaintiff slammed himself against his cell wall, the corrections officer who witnessed this event should have created an incident report or at least told his/her supervisor about Plaintiff’s behavior. Yet Defendants did not produce any reports, health specialists, or family members to support the mental instability/ self-harm story. This leads the Court to one of three conclusions, all damaging the jail’s already blemished public image,” he ruled. “…Whichever of the explanations applies, this Court finds that a corrections officer at the Pohnpei State Jail placed Plaintiff in ankle-cuffs. Plaintiff was then left hand and ankle cuffed in his cell for eleven days without justification.
” In its ruling after the damages hearing in May the Court said that the Plaintiff had offered no evidence of lost income as a result of his abuse at the hands of law enforcement officials. In his assessment he therefore relied only on previous cases against Kolonia Town and Pohnpei State governments awarded without proof of monetary loss. In Conrad v. Kolonia a Kolonia Town police officer broke a Plaintiff’s leg during an arrest. The injury required substantial medical treatment, including surgery at the Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. In that case the court awarded the Plaintiff $4,540.77 as compensation for the battery and $1,377.68 for pain and suffering. In Plais v. Panuelo the plaintiff was held in solitary confinement for 11 days after successfully escaping from jail. During that time he was beaten by two police officers and the jail denied his mother access to him. The Court awarded the Plaintiff $3,500 for the beatings and $5,000 for unlawful denials of access. In Warren v. Pohnpei State Department of Public Safety the Plaintiff was jailed for two and a half days and was not allowed to speak with his wife on the telephone during that time. The Court awarded the Plaintiff $500 for denial of access. “The above cited cases show that Pohnpei Department of Public Safety has a long history of tolerating abuses of authority by its employees,” Johnny wrote. “…In light of the egregious abuses of authority displayed by DPS employees in this case, as well as the relevant case law, the Court holds Pohnpei State and its agency, the Department of Public Safety, jointly and severally liable as follows: · $10,000 for battery committed against Plaintiff by one of the arresting officers. · $33,000 (11 days x $3,000 per day) for negligent acts and omissions committed by corrections officers in holding Plaintiff in cuffs for eleven day, and · $3,500 (5 denials x $700) for unlawful denials of access.