BANGOR, Maine — A federal jury on Monday found that a Winslow police officer’s use of a Taser on William Sadulsky, 68, more than four years ago in his home was not excessive force.
The jury of five women and three men deliberated about two hours before announcing the verdict in U.S. District Court. The trial began March 9.
The incident that led to the lawsuit began Jan. 2, 2012, with a noise complaint to Winslow police by a neighbor about Sadulsky’s use of a wood chipper between 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., according to trial briefs. There was a history of complaints to authorities by the neighbors and Sadulsky against each other.
Three officers, now Sgt. Haley Fleming and officers Michael Michaud and Joshua Veilleux, arrived to deal with the situation in two separate vehicles, according to court documents.
Sadulsky claimed that Fleming “charged into his home.” Fleming claimed that the homeowner grabbed his duty belt and dragged him into the living room of the house.
Fleming testified Friday that Sadulsky and Michaud went from the living room into the kitchen. The sergeant said that when he went up the short set of stairs from the sunken living room into the kitchen, he tripped. When he got up, he saw that Sadulsky had Michaud in a headlock.
Sadulsky claimed in court documents that he “had his hands up at the time of the initial tasing and was not posing a threat to Officer Fleming.” He also claimed that Fleming did not warn him he was going to use the stun gun and that Michaud never entered the house.
Fleming arrested Sadulsky and was charged with two counts of assault on a police officer. In September 2012, Sadulsky was found guilty of assaulting Michaud and acquitted of assaulting Fleming.
Sadulsky and his wife, Sandra Sadulsky, 66, sued the officers and the town of Winslow on Jan. 1, 2014, in federal court in Bangor. Claims against the municipality, Michaud and Veilleux were dismissed. The couple sought about $400,000 in compensatory damages for medical expenses because of an injury William Sadulsky suffered during his arrest, and counseling, as well as unspecified damages for emotional distress. The lawsuit also sought unspecified punitive damages.
“[Fleming] feels vindicated,” the officer’s Portland attorney, Edward Benjamin, said Tuesday. “He’s borne the brunt of a lot of criticism from Sadulsky who spoke at town meetings and to the media about what he claimed happened. I’m sure that Sgt. Fleming feels some sense of closure about what was supposed to be have been a 90-second encounter and a noise warning.”
Joseph Baldacci of Bangor, who represented the Sadulskys, said an appeal to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston is being considered.
“It was our contention in this case that Mr. Fleming [using the Taser on] Bill four times in his home over a noise complaint issue at 50,000 volts apiece in rapid succession was excessive force,” Baldacci said. “We respectfully disagree with the jury’s verdict.”