City-parish government paid $320,350 to settle a federal lawsuit filed by a woman whose arm was broken by a deputy city marshal during an early morning encounter in downtown Lafayette, according to settlement documents obtained through a public records request.
The settlement, which led to the dismissal of the case this month, also bars plaintiff Sally M. Smith and her attorneys from discussing any evidence in the case and even spells out the specific language to be used to respond to media questions: “The case was settled and all claims by all parties were dismissed, and we can comment no further.”
According to the lawsuit, the incident began when Smith approached a Lafayette police officer who had pulled over a friend driving the wrong way on a one-way street in downtown Lafayette after midnight on Sept. 11, 2010.
The driver was trying to catch another friend to stop her from driving home drunk, and Smith, who was on foot at the time, said she was trying to explain the situation to the officer when Deputy City Marshal Jeff Mahler arrived on the scene, according to the lawsuit.
Smith alleged that Mahler immediately began yelling at her, threatening her with arrest and, ultimately, broke her left arm while trying to handcuff her.
Mahler maintained during the litigation that Smith was uncooperative and that he used no more force than necessary to detain her.
Smith was charged with resisting an officer and disturbing the peace.
In city court, she was convicted on the resisting an officer charge and acquitted on the disturbing the peace charge, but the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal tossed out the conviction.
In a written statement Monday, City Marshal Brian Pope defended Mahler, saying he still works on the force and never faced disciplinary action for the incident because he “used the minimum level of force available to him to effect a lawful arrest the she resisted.”
“It was at the discretion of the Lafayette Consolidated (Government) administration to settle this case out of court,” Pope said.