Jurors rule against inmate

CONCORD – Guards at the Hillsborough County jail didn’t use excessive force on an inmate who was roughed up during a search in his cell nearly three years ago, a jury ruled Friday in U.S. District Court.

Anthony Cabrera and his lawyer, Michael Sheehan, of Concord, filed suit against the jail last year, naming two guards and Corrections Superintendent James O’Mara.

Cabrera claimed that one of the guards, Sgt. Ryan LeVierge, shoved him against his cell wall while searching him after he arrived at the jail on Dec. 26, 2005, and then beat and kicked him after putting him in restraints.

LeVierge acknowledged having to use force to restrain Cabrera but denied being any rougher than necessary.

U.S. District Court Judge Steven McAuliffe dismissed some of Cabrera’s claims in a ruling last month, and jurors found in favor of the jail after hearing evidence during a four-day trial last week, ruling that LeVierge didn’t beat Cabrera or violate his constitutional rights, court records show.

Ruling on a motion for summary judgment before trial, McAuliffe dismissed Cabrera’s claim against another guard and also dismissed his claim that O’Mara was negligent in supervising LeVierge, as other inmates had lodged similar complaints against him.

“The mere fact that LeVierge has been accused by inmates of using excessive force in complaints filed in this court does not establish a basis upon which O’Mara could be held liable for negligently retaining LeVierge,” McAuliffe wrote.

There was relatively little dispute about what happened to Cabrera in his cell, McAuliffe noted in his ruling.

“While Cabrera was in the cell, he was asked to kneel facing the back wall, to facilitate an unclothed contraband search. While facing the wall, he turned his head to address the officers, and (Sgt. Ryan) LeVierge pushed his head against the wall. When plaintiff subsequently turned his upper body toward the officers, LeVierge took him to the floor and placed him in a prone position,” McAuliffe wrote.

Cabrera admitted that he had made a sarcastic and vulgar remark, which prompted LeVierge to push his head into the wall, and that he had then turned again toward LeVierge, who then forcibly put him on the floor and placed him in handcuffs and leg restraints, according to court records.

Cabrera was treated at the Elliot Hospital after the incident, where he got six stitches on his face, and was treated for other superficial cuts, a neck sprain and bruises on his chest. Cabrera initially claimed to have suffered a broken nose and ruptured eardrum, but he had no evidence to back those claims, McAuliffe’s ruling states.

Cabrera claimed LeVierge also punched and kicked him after restraining him, but LeVierge said he used force only to cuff and restraint Cabrera. Security video from the jail showed that LeVierge was only in the cell for about 84 seconds, and he had no visible bloodstains or other signs of a beating when he left, McAuliffe’s order states.

Cabrera is now an inmate in the state prison system, and he has an appeal pending before the state supreme court.