Lawsuit alleges assault by Cumberland County prison guards

2012-12-27T17:38:00Z Lawsuit alleges assault by Cumberland County prison guardsAndrew Carr, The Sentinel The Sentinel
December 27, 2012 5:38 pm  • 

A civil lawsuit filed in Cumberland County Court Dec. 14 alleges that two Cumberland County prison guards assaulted a woman who was restrained while being processed for DUI charges at the prison.

The complaint said the victim, Coleen Russell, 44, of Carlisle was arrested at 9:30 p.m. Aug. 12 and charged with DUI-related offenses in Lower Frankford Township by the State Police at Carlisle. She was taken to the Cumberland County Prison for booking and processing, where she alleges the assault took place.

The complaint said a video of the incident exists. Russell’s attorney, Vincent Monfredo of Rominger and Associates, said the video will be received in the discovery phase of the proceedings.

“I know that a video exists,” Monfredo said. “I have not seen the video yet, but I know that a previous attorney who represented the plaintiff did see the video, so I do know it exists.” The previous attorney referred to is David Foster, who initially represented Russell in the DUI charges.

Russell is seeking damages in an undisclosed amount, “in excess of the limits for compulsory arbitration, along with punitive damages, costs, interest and attorney’s fees,” according to the complaint.

The complaint said that following Russell’s arrest, she was standing and was restrained at her ankles while a prison guard, Ed Spahr, was preparing to take her fingerprints.

At that time, Russell was having a conversation with one of the other guards and another guard, Jarreau Dodson, lunged across the room so that he was face to face with Russell and screamed “Shut your (expletive) mouth and do what you’re (expletive) told,” the complaint alleges.

Monfredo said that “According to her, the other guard didn’t seem to like what they were saying, or the conversation they were having and he started screaming at her.”

The complaint said that Russell then told Dodson to “Get the (expletive) out of my face,” and that he continued screaming in her face and often made contact with her face using his face.

Russell responded by calling him a racial epithet, and Dodson grabbed her arms and shoved her backward into the fingerprint machine or another hard object behind her, causing bruising to her back and rear end, the complaint said.

“After she called him that name, he pushed her into what she believes was the fingerprint machine or some other object behind her,” Monfredo said.

The complaint said Spahr then approached and punched her in the left side of her face and said “Don’t you (expletive) disrespect my coworkers,” choking Russell until she was unable to breathe.

“Then the other guy, Ed Spahr, came over and punched her in the face, got on top of her and was choking her,” Monfredo said.

The complaint also alleges that Russell’s shirt and undergarments has been torn during the incident and she thought her shirt might be pulled off.

She was then placed into a chair and restrained by her wrists and ankles and moved into another cell, the complaint said.

“This was unprovoked; they weren’t acting in self-defense, they weren’t trying to restrain her in any way, she already had shackles on and according to her, she wasn’t acting out or anything like that,” Monfredo said. “There is no reason to use that sort of force on any person who is just being arrested.”

The complaint alleges that excessive force was used by both Spahr and Dodson, saying the men were not acting in self-defense and that the actions were intentional, as well as assault and battery which put Russell in serious fear of bodily harm or even death.

The complaint also said that Russell’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated as well as loss of her physical liberties. The complaint states that Russell experienced physical pain and suffering caused by her injuries, as well as emotional trauma.

Cumberland County Solicitor Edward Schorpp said in a phone interview on Dec. 18 that he was not aware of the suit. Monfredo confirmed on Dec. 19 that he had sent the suit to the solicitor’s office the previous day. Several calls to Schorpp’s office went unreturned Thursday. Cumberland County Prison Warden Earl Reitz said he had not seen nor was aware of the complaint as of Thursday and referred inquires to the solicitor’s office.

Monfredo said Dodson is still employed at the prison and believes Spahr currently is living in Florida.

Russell was charged with DUI, DUI highest rate and illegally parking in an intersection in the incident that took her to the prison on Aug. 12.

The charges were waived during a preliminary hearing on Oct. 26 in front of Magisterial District Judge Paul Fegley and are in Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Court in front of County Court Judge M.L. Ebert as of Dec. 19.

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