A Cuyahoga County Jury Awarded Arnold Black $22 Million Dollars For Being Locked In A Closet With No Food Or Water For 4 Days
On Tuesday May 31, 2016 a Cuyahoga County Ohio jury returned a verdict in the amount of $34,000,000 against three police officers and the City Of East Cleveland. This amount was later reduced to $22 Million by the judge. Click here to read the final Journal Entry from the Court . Bobby and Mark DiCello, Jim Casey and The DiCello Law Firm represented the plaintiff.
On Thursday April 23rd, 2012, Arnold Black was visiting with his mother. At the end of the visit, Arnold, who was 46 at the time, got in his green pickup with his landscaping tools in the back and began to drive home. On his way, Arnold passed through the City of East Cleveland. Unbeknownst to Arnold, a ruthless chief ruled over the force and instituted a policy that the officers were to randomly show examples of authority to remind the people to stay in line. Little did Arnold know that on this day, he was marked to be an example.
Detective Hicks was off duty in an unmarked car when he saw Arnold’s green landscape truck drive by and stop at a light. The detective pulled up beside Arnold and the two made eye contact. Arnold did not get far before the marked car of officer O’Leary pulled up on Arnold with flashing lights. Arnold pulled over to the curb. Bewildered, Arnold took out his license and registration. Arnold rolled down his window so as to allow the officer to speak with him. “Please step out of the vehicle” were the first words Arnold heard from the off duty detective Hicks. “I don’t understand, what did I do?” were the first words detective Hicks heard from Arnold. The detective opened Arnold’s door and commanded him to step out of the vehicle. Arnold complied. No sooner had his feet hit the pavement than Arnold was spun around, handcuffed, pulled to the back of the truck, and sat on the bumper.
With officer O’Leary watching Arnold, detective Hicks proceeded to tear apart the inside of Arnold’s truck, right down to removing the inside door panels.
Arnold looked up to see a frustrated and disgusted detective Hicks, rhetorically asking Arnold what he was doing driving through the detective’s city. Hicks ranted how Arnold had ruined his night because Arnold's truck was not the green truck that was supposed to contain a kilo of cocaine. When Arnold began to speak, Detective Hicks lost it, reigning blow after blow to Arnold’s face and head. When Arnold fell from the bumper to the ground, officer O’Leary picked Arnold back up onto the bumper so Hicks could beat him some more.
Following the beating, Arnold was placed into the back of the marked cruiser. Once at the station, a bloody and beaten Arnold was taken in through the back and placed in a closet. The closet had no windows, no toilet, and the walls were lined with old lockers. Here, Arnold stayed without any human contact for the first day.
At home, Arnold’s girlfriend Erika was out of her mind with worry. She started calling his mother, then his family, then the hospitals, then the local police stations to no avail. Arnold had just disappeared.
On the second day, an officer not named Hicks or O’Leary brought Arnold a pint of milk and snuck him a cell phone, warning Arnold not to speak loudly because there was a microphone in the smoke detector and the officer did not want anyone else knowing that he had allowed Arnold to make a phone call. The microphone made Arnold realize that he was not the first to endure the torture of the closet.
Arnold called Erika, who was so relieved to hear from him. Arnold told Erika that he was being held at the East Cleaveland Police station and could she come and get him? Erika let Arnold’s family know and she went down to the station, only to be met with an explanation that Arnold was being held on an investigation and she could not see him. Arnold’s brother was met with an explanation that Arnold was not even at the Police Station.
Having no rescue despite making the call, Arnold was left in fear for his life the second and third days without outside contact, using the lockers as a toilet and wondering what was to become of him. Arnold stayed in his same bloody clothes in the closet, peeing in a locker.
By the 4th day, detective Hicks and officer O’Leary had forged the booking paperwork using the picture from Arnold’s drivers license and making up a story about felony possession of cocaine. This paperwork was necessary to slip Arnold in with the rest of the general population being transferred to county jail on the fourth day. Arnold arrived at county with the forged documents and was given a phone call. Arnold called Erika and Erika came to bail Arnold out. Arnold hired a lawyer to fight the felony drug possession charge and of course, at the pre-trial, a prosecutor without any evidence was forced to dismiss the charge.
Having quit the department by the time the civil suit was filed, detective Hicks chose to admit to all of the facts of the story set forth above. Detective Hicks detailed the policy of beatings put forth by his chief. Detective Hicks admitted that Arnold was not alone in having undergone treatment like this. Finally, detective Hicks admitted that the dash cam footage from the cruiser which showed the beating was erased with the chief and the mayor present. Detective Hicks apologized for his conduct, but wanted the jury to know that this is how he had been trained and this is what has been happening in East Cleveland for years.
We read all the time about egregious circumstances that result in no criminal charges against the officers and then some inadequate amount of settlement that an impoverished family cannot decline. It is refreshing to know that when shown this kind of story, people have the morality and fortitude to stand up and award an amount that comes at least somewhat close to the full value of devastation caused by this kind of conduct.
It is sad to think this happens in our country and we are sure that stories like this have occurred and will continue to occur in spite of this verdict. To the extent that the verdict can serve as a beacon to dissuade such conduct, we are thankful to Arnold Black for letting his story be heard. This is how we make change, one case at a time.