A Forestville man who had criminal charges dismissed after a videotape emerged showing Sonoma County correctional deputies beating him and shocking him with a Taser sued the department Thursday in federal court.
Esa Wroth, 28, says his civil rights were violated in the Jan. 2, 2013, incident that happened as he was being booked into the jail on drunken-driving charges.
His suit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco contends deputies used excessive force when they knocked the handcuffed man to the ground and began punching and kicking him.
It says deputies shot Wroth with Tasers more than 20 times, for the purposes of “causing pain and serious injury, unrelated to any legitimate law enforcement purpose.”
And it names Sheriff Steve Frietas, alleging a failure to train deputies and investigate the incident, as well as five correctional officers who participated in the booking.
“It was horrible,” said Wroth’s lawyer, Izaak Schwaiger. “It was such a brutal attack that the attackers were getting winded.”
The Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Wroth was arrested on River Road after deputies found him in his crashed car . He later was tested with a blood-alcohol level of 0.21 percent, more than twice the legal limit.
While being booked into the jail, he became uncooperative and resisted efforts to subdue him, jail officials said.
Correctional deputies hit him to gain compliance and shocked him with Tasers during a struggle, they said.
An internal investigation concluded the actions were appropriate.
A portion of the confrontation was captured on a video recording by jail officials, which Wroth’s lawyer posted on YouTube. Altercations between suspects and jail officials are routinely recorded for evidence purposes, jail officials said.
On the eve of trial, prosecutors dismissed resisting and assault charges against Wroth in exchange for his plea to an alcohol-related reckless driving charge.
The federal lawsuit seeks damages for ongoing medical bills. Wroth had two dislocated shoulders and had Taser barbs surgically removed from his body, Schwaiger said.
“If our local justice system were truly concerned about justice, it would have brought charges against the officers,” Schwaiger said. “But since it’s not willing to do that, we’re going to get it in federal court.”
You can reach Staff Writer Paul Payne at 568-5312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @ppayne.