Carbondale man wins Taser lawsuit
pitkin county correspondent
CARBONDALE ” A Carbondale man has settled with the town over a 2004 incident in which a policeman used a Taser on him during a routine traffic stop.
The settlement for an undisclosed amount which the two parties reached during Feb. 9 a five-hour conference among the lawyers, calls for dismissal of a federal civil rights lawsuit filed last year by Steven Horn’s lawyer, Richard Dally.
According to the minutes of the conference, formal dismissal papers for the federal lawsuit are due Feb. 28 with the Denver U.S. District Court.
Carbondale officials confirmed the settlement, but declined to name the amount of money the town’s insurance carrier will pay. Town Manager Tom Baker said there would be no formal comments from his office on the settlement until formal papers are filed with the court and town.
“Right now, we don’t even have any paperwork” on which to base a statement, he said.
The case arose Aug. 4, 2004, when Carbondale police Officer Jose Munoz stopped Horn for running a stop sign in a borrowed pickup truck loaded with bales of hay for delivery to a town-organized public party on Main Street.
During the traffic stop, Horn got out of the truck to talk with Munoz, whom he knew personally, and Munoz hit him with a Taser after a brief exchange of words.
Munoz used the Taser somewhere between four and six times according to testimony in a municipal court trial. A jury found Horn innocent of charges of resisting arrest and failing to obey the order of a police officer, but guilty of running a stop sign.
In the wake of the incident, Horn’s Glenwood Springs attorney filed a formal notice reserving Horn’s right to sue the town, mentioning a possible amount of $250,000.
The suit, filed May 10, 2006, in U.S. District Court in Denver, named no dollar amount, but claims Horn was “shocked and incapacitated” during the incident and suffered serious injuries as a result of being hit several times with 50,000 volts of electricity.
According to the lawsuit, Munoz violated Horn’s civil rights as guaranteed in the Fourth, Eighth and 14th amendments, which deal with unlawful search and seizure, “cruel and unusual punishments,” and the right to due process and equal protections for all under the law.
The suit maintained Munoz is a “rogue cop” who is “a known abuser of his police powers,” and was trained poorly or not at all in the use of the Taser; that he was the subject of other “complaints” regarding “excessive use of force” that the town and Police Chief Gene Schilling knew about; and that Munoz and the other defendants took action against Horn “knowingly, recklessly, willfully, wantonly and maliciously.”
Munoz has claimed that Horn was acting erratically, shouting at the officer and waving his arms in a threatening manner, and refusing to obey instructions to get back in the car and stay there.
Munoz remains on active duty with the police department, and Baker said there are no plans to change that. He said police policies and procedures have been revised in the wake of the Taser incident, and were adopted by the Town Board of Trustees last year.
Dally, who practices in the Roaring Fork Valley and in Denver, was not available for comment. Horn could not be reached either.
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