Federal judge exonerates Edmunds
January 13, 2007
A federal judge this week threw out of court claims from a Coalville businesswoman who says Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds assaulted her shortly after the Republican was sworn into office in 2003.
After violating her civil rights, Coalville resident Sheryl Clark alleged in a lawsuit she filed against Edmunds in 2005 that the sheriff grabbed her arm and pushed her when he and two deputies entered her home Jan. 15, 2003, to have her daughter "involuntarily committed."
United States Senior District Judge Bruce Jenkins, however, rejected Clark’s attempts to collect damages from Summit County in a 14-page decision filed Wednesday.
"I’m completely exonerated on that," Edmunds said.
The decision issued this week details what occurred between Edmunds and Clark at her Main Street home in Coalville.
After Clark’s daughter, Sherylyn Burgener, allowed Edmunds and deputies Andrew Leatham and Jim Fowers to take her into custody, she was accompanied by Edmunds inside Clark’s home to say good-bye to her children and brush her teeth, the decision states.
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Clark’s requests to commit her daughter herself for psychological evaluation were denied by the sheriff.
"[Burgener] then became argumentative, and [Edmunds] took hold of her by the arm and began to lead her out of the bathroom area toward the front door of Clark’s residence," according to Jenkins.
When Clark approached Edmunds he "put out his right arm in a stiff-arm motion to deflect Clark from his path to the front door, shoving Clark back," according to Jenkins’ decision.
According to Jenkins, "Clark stumbled backwards, hitting a dining room table and chair, either as a direct result of the push or of tripping over the chair and losing her balance."
"At that time, Clark gave no indication she had been hurt as a result of the shove by [Edmunds]," the decision states.
Clark’s lawsuit, however, wanted $1 million for "significant, permanent and disabling" injuries she sustained in her confrontation with the sheriff.
An assistant for Clark’s attorney, David Pace, who was out of town this week, wouldn’t comment about the decision. Clark wasn’t immediately available for comment.
Meanwhile, to perform their duties police officers must assume "qualified immunity," said Peter Stirba, outside counsel hired to represent Edmunds and the county.
"With any civil rights litigation, essentially you have to prove a constitutional violation, and that it was a knowing violation There were no constitutional violations here," Stirba said. "As this decision clearly shows, in many, many instances, quite frankly, law enforcement officers are acting totally appropriately and are doing a very difficult job very well."
Deputies did not illegally enter Clark’s home, ruled the judge.
Clark needed to show officers engaged in behavior so malicious it "shocked the conscience," before some damages could be collected.
"Frankly, the shocking part of it was that the lawsuit was ever filed to begin with," the sheriff said.
According to the ruling, "[Edmunds] is entitled to summary judgment based upon his qualified immunity defense."
"Citizens should expect to always be treated professionally by law enforcement officers and in this case, a federal court determined [Edmunds] did absolutely nothing wrong," Summit County Attorney David Brickey said.