On November 8, 2018

Lawsuit alleging police brutality in Rutland suffers setback

By Alan J. Keays/VTDigger

A federal judge has thrown out claims in a police brutality lawsuit against Rutland City and its police department, but Matthew Hart, a Rutland attorney representing Smith-Wallett, said he’s pressing forward against officer Ryan Ashe, who he alleges used excessive force when arresting his client.

Judge Christina Reiss issued the ruling in a case, pending in federal court in Burlington, brought by Smith-Wallett, a former Rutland woman who says city police officer Ashe slammed her to the ground leading to a concussion and other injuries when taking her into custody.

The officer in a court filing in support of the disorderly conduct charge brought against the woman wrote that she was so drunk she couldn’t stand up and fell down when he walked around the side his cruiser and tried to put her inside the vehicle. Ashe alleged that she was abusive and used obscene language in public, according to the lawsuit. Smith-Wallett’s breath test registered a 0.256 blood-alcohol level. The charge was later dismissed.

Chelsea Smith-Wallett, who now lives in South Carolina, earlier this year sued not only Ashe, but also named the city and its police department as defendants.

Following the filing of motions, the judge last week granted the city’s request to dismiss claims against both the municipality and its law enforcement agency.

This allows Hart to refile the claims with more specific allegations within 30 days of the Oct. 18 decision.

“I’m not going to do that,” said Hart, Thursday. “I’m just going to go forward against Ashe … Ashe is still in and that’s really the main target of the lawsuit anyway.”

The lawsuit alleged that at the time of Ashe’s hiring in Rutland in April 2014 he was about to be fired by the Glens Falls Police Department in New York where he had been working previously. Ashe had received three notices of discipline prior to resigning from that department, according to Hart’s lawsuit.

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