Man files excessive force lawsuit against Troopers

Posted: Thursday, November 01, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A lawsuit has been filed against the Alaska Department of Public Safety and three Alaska State Troopers by a man who says troopers detained him unlawfully and used excessive force after he witnessed a Fairbanks bar stabbing in 1999.

Stephen A. Greene, 44, was a patron in the Miner's Home Saloon on Oct. 24, 1999 when a fight broke out and two men were stabbed. James Fuzzard, 39, was later convicted of first-degree assault for the stabbings and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

After the stabbings, Greene reportedly tried to staunch the blood flow from a chest wound on one of the victims. After a few minutes, Fairbanks police officers arrived on the scene, and Alaska State Troopers were called in to assist.

Greene was never considered a suspect in the stabbing. However, troopers were reportedly told not to allow anyone to leave the bar until the Fairbanks Police Department allowed their release.

Thus, when Greene asked troopers to be allowed to leave, they refused. According to the lawsuit, Greene asked troopers to release him three times. After that, he tried to wedge his way out between two troopers. According to the suit, the troopers then grabbed Greene, pulled him to the ground, sprayed him with pepper spray and hit his legs repeatedly with a baton before placing him under arrest.

''The Alaska State Troopers used excessive force that was not objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances,'' the lawsuit states.

Troopers give a different version of events. According to the criminal complaint, troopers say Greene swore at them twice before assuming an aggressive stance and making a fist at one of the troopers, Tony McGlothlin. The troopers then attempted to grab Greene to place him under arrest. During the ensuing struggle another trooper, Manuel Vital, was thrown against a bar table and knocked to the ground.

According to the complaint, Greene was sprayed with pepper-spray and wrestled to the ground, where he was struck at least once with a baton in the thigh. Troopers say he continued to resist by refusing to offer his right hand so it could be handcuffed, but Greene claims that his arm had been pinned to the ground beneath him.

Greene was charged with misdemeanor counts of fourth-degree assault and resisting arrest. Prior to his trial, Greene attorney Nelson Traverso filed a motion to dismiss the charges on the grounds that the troopers had no legal right to detain a witness for so long. In an August 2000 ruling, District Court Judge Raymond Funk found that troopers had erred in detaining Greene, but that the subsequent charges against him were still valid.

The case went to a jury trial in December 2000 and Greene was acquitted of all charges.

The lawsuit was filed against the state of Alaska Department of Public Safety as well as McGlothlin, Vital and the third trooper involved, Dane Gilmore.

The suit seeks more than $100,000 in damages as well as costs and attorney fees, asserting that Greene suffered ''physical injury, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and humiliation.''

Traverso was not available for comment on Tuesday. Troopers referred questions to their counsel, Assistant Attorney General Randy Olsen. Olsen declined to comment on the suit. The state has 40 days to file a response to the complaint.

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