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Cicero: Town, police department face down lawsuit

The town of Cicero and its police department, as well as one named police officer, faced a lawsuit by a resident alleging police brutality. The town board will discuss signing off on a confidential settlement at Wednesday's board meeting.

The town of Cicero and its police department, as well as one named police officer, faced a lawsuit by a resident alleging police brutality. The town board will discuss signing off on a confidential settlement at Wednesday's board meeting.

— Merola maintains that he begged Snell to stop, but Snell continued the assault, mocking his cries. The officer then handcuffed Merola behind his back, even though Merola asked him to cuff him in the front.

The entire scene was overheard by Merola’s wife, as the cell phone connection was still open. Once Merola was handcuffed, Snell picked up the phone and said, “Hello?” Sherri Merola replied, “Hello, I’m his wife.” At that point, according to the court papers, Snell flipped the phone shut, disconnecting the call.

An unknown witness to the commotion called 911 and an ambulance responded about 20 minutes later. Emergency medical personnel transported Merola to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he was treated for injuries to his hands, wrists, face, body, head and neck.

While Merola was being treated, Snell issued him two appearance tickets, one for disorderly conduct, a violation, and one for resisting arrest, a misdemeanor.

Less than a week later, the parties met again when, according to the Notice of Claim, Snell pulled over Merola’s vehicle for “driving too slowly.” Snell allegedly attempted to test Merola’s blood alcohol content using disposable box tests three times, but all three tests were negative for alcohol. Snell released Merola and allowed him to drive home. According to the suit, “Snell had no valid reason, reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop [Merola’s] vehicle… the traffic stop was done wholly without cause or necessity and in an illegal, malicious and reckless manner for the purpose, upon information and belief, of depriving [Merola] of his constitutional and human rights, to oppress and injure [Merola] and/or for the purpose of causing [Merola] extreme humiliation, physical injury and emotional distress.”

In the suit, Merola sought $1 million in compensatory damages, as well as payment of his legal fees, and $1 million in punitive damages.

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