BY JOE GYAN
Advocate staff writer
September 19, 2012
A former Baton Rouge resident who claims he suffered a ruptured bladder in 2007 at the hands of a police officer is entitled to both compensatory and punitive damages, an attorney for the man told a jury Tuesday.
“This is a case about abuse of power and personal responsibility,” Henri Saunders, Brian Townsend’s lawyer, said in his opening statement at the trial of Townsend’s lawsuit against ex-officer Nathan Davis, the city and the city-parish.
Saunders said Townsend incurred $30,000 in medical expenses, including abdominal surgery; missed four months of work; and sustained physical and mental scars “that will last a lifetime.”
Henry Olinde Jr., an attorney for the city and city-parish, suggested to jurors that Townsend “lit the match” in the early morning hours of March 4, 2007.
It was then that Davis and fellow Officer Nicholas Batiste, in response to a noise complaint from a neighbor, showed up at Townsend’s Highland Creek Parkway residence where he and his fiancée were hosting a going-away party for a friend. Between 15 and 20 people attended.
Townsend now lives in Texas.
Olinde said the officers asked several partygoers to shut the festivities down, but Saunders said the request was not conveyed to Townsend. Olinde said the officers returned and were attempting to issue Townsend a summons on the front porch when he tried to run back into the house.
Olinde said Davis tackled an intoxicated Townsend on the concrete porch and pepper-sprayed him.
“It’s a hard tackle. This is the point where Mr. Townsend ruptures his bladder,” Olinde told the jury, calling the take-down “totally proper.”
Saunders painted a different picture of how Townsend’s bladder was ruptured, saying Davis kicked him in the groin while Townsend was on his knees with his hands cuffed behind his back at the police substation on Highland Road.
“He kicked Brian in the groin as hard as he could,” Saunders said, adding that the attack occurred because Townsend asked Davis if he could use the bathroom.
Another partygoer, who had been arrested and was just outside the room reported hearing a “thud,” Saunders said, and Batiste said in a videotaped deposition that he heard a loud thump.
Davis pleaded guilty in 2009 to violating Townsend’s civil rights. Davis admitted he pepper-sprayed Townsend’s face while the man’s hands were handcuffed behind him, but Davis denied kicking him.
Davis is serving six years in federal prison.
Olinde told jurors that Davis did not kick Townsend.
“It’s an insult to your intelligence to come in here and say Nathan Davis did not kick Brian Townsend,” Saunders said to the jury.
Olinde said Townsend continually chanted at the police substation that he was going to sue Davis.
“There was a plan to sue from the beginning,” Olinde said.
Dr. Kenneth M. Blue Jr., a urologist, testified for the defense in the 2009 federal case that he reviewed Townsend’s medical records and concluded his bladder probably burst as Davis tackled him outside Townsend’s house.
Saunders said Tuesday that Blue was not Townsend’s treating physician.
Townsend’s misdemeanor charges for a noise violation and resisting arrest were dismissed, and Davis was fired from the Police Department.
The trial is expected to continue through the week.