Ohio Jury Awards $50M to Man Who Alleged Police Locked Him in Closet

August 13, 2019

A jury in Cleveland on Friday awarded $50 million to a man who claimed police beat him while he was handcuffed and locked him in a storage closet for four days with no toilet and nothing to eat or drink but a carton of milk.

The jury award in the lawsuit filed by 52-year-old Arnold Black against East Cleveland and its police department included $20 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages.

A different Cuyahoga County jury awarded Black $22 million in June 2016 during a three-day trial where no attorneys representing East Cleveland attended. The city subsequently appealed, and the lawsuit was sent back to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court for another trial.

Whether East Cleveland can pay the jury award is uncertain. It’s one of the poorest cities in Ohio and has long struggled with maintaining basic services.

An email message seeking comment was left Saturday with East Cleveland Law Director Willa Hemmons.

Black was jailed in April 2012 after an East Cleveland detective asked a patrol officer to pull over Black’s truck, believing there was a large amount of cocaine inside.

The lawsuit said Detective Randy Hicks began punching Black in the face and head when no drugs were found while the patrol officer held Black upright so Hicks could continue the beating. The officers then locked him in a closet being used as a holding cell.

Cleveland.com reported that Hicks again took the stand during Black’s latest trial and testified the East Cleveland department had a culture of violence at the time that included the practice of roughing up suspects to get them to talk.

Black was indicted by a grand jury on drug possession, criminal tools and tampering with evidence charges. An assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor asked that the case be dismissed in July 2012 because East Cleveland police failed to provide any evidence to support the charges.

Hicks was eventually forced to resign.

Defense attorney Justin Awal said Black was “elate” by the verdict.

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