The Pima County Board of Supervisors agreed to pay a former inmate $325,000 Tuesday for injuries he received at the hands of Pima County jail corrections officers last year.
Clifford Linebarger initially asked for $1 million in a claim filed against the county last May. The claim said four officers assaulted Linebarger, beating him to unconsciousness in January 2010, and the injuries caused blood clots and a heart attack.
He filed a lawsuit against the county, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and two corrections officers last month.
Linebarger, 29, was arrested a year ago after he and his girlfriend got into an argument at a local dentist's office. The two disagreed on whether to give the office their children's Social Security numbers, and the dental office staff called the police during the verbal dispute.
Linebarger was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and booked into the Pima County jail in the afternoon of Jan. 19, 2010, the lawsuit says.
While there, he heard corrections officers making jokes about detainees, and he tried to joke with the officers, but was told to "shut his mouth," said his attorney, Martin Rodriguez.
Then Linebarger was transferred to a cell by himself, and two corrections officers began to beat him when he didn't respond to their taunting, the suit says. Linebarger was beaten until he was unconscious, and awoke with his mouth full of blood, a throbbing right arm that felt broken, knots on the sides of his head and chest pain, according to the suit. Rodriguez said the entire incident was recorded on video at the jail. Linebarger had trouble breathing and began to vomit every 20 minutes.
Corrections officers took him to a hospital, where X-rays showed his arm was not broken, Rodriguez said. After he was released from the jail the next morning, he went to Northwest Hospital where doctors discovered he had an arterial blood clot and was in the process of having a heart attack, the initial claim says. The lawsuit says the beating caused the blood clots and subsequent heart damage, plus physical and emotional pain.
Linebarger works as a martial-arts instructor and has returned to work since the incident, Rodriguez said.
The suit says Dupnik "created and maintains a policy of excessive use of force by the officers under his command," and the county failed to correct that.
The Pima County Sheriff's Department sent Linebarger a letter in May saying an administrative review showed "the action taken by our employees was not justified. Appropriate disciplinary action will be taken."
The department could not provide any information about the disciplinary action Tuesday.
"There is no admission of fault, but we thought it was a reasonable settlement," said Tom Dugal, deputy Pima County attorney. He said he could not offer additional comment.
Rodriguez also said he thought the settlement was reasonable.
"The number was not offensive, the county was negotiating in good faith," he said.
Linebarger is completing a diversion program, including counseling, for the disorderly conduct charge. The charge will be dismissed when he completes the program, Rodriguez said.
Four supervisors unanimously approved the settlement. Supervisor Sharon Bronson was absent.
Contact reporter Andrea Kelly at email@example.com or 807-7790.