FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A jury in U.S. District Court cleared a former Fort Wayne Police officer in an excessive force lawsuit Friday – despite that ex-officer’s previous admission to battering the man who sued him.
The jury reached it’s verdict after a three-day trial in which its members determined Charles W. Smith did not use unreasonable force when he punched Jason Chambers at the Allen County Jail in 2019.
Smith pleaded guilty one count of misdemeanor battery two months after the incident involving Chambers and resigned from the Fort Wayne Police Department. The then 28-year-old was given a 1-year suspended sentence by an Allen Superior Court judge.
Chambers filed his lawsuit against Smith more than a year later in 2020, claiming the ex-officer violated his constitutional rights.
The two men first crossed paths on March 23, 2019 during a traffic stop.
Smith was in a fully-marked police vehicle and wearing his police uniform when he pulled Chambers over. During the course of the traffic stop, Smith suspected Chambers had been driving drunk, according to state and federal court documents.
While at the Allen County Jail, Chambers refused a certified breath test. Smith then obtained a search warrant to have Chambers’ blood drawn, according to the court documents. Chambers tried to refuse that, as well.
At some point, Smith attempted to handcuff Chambers. Chambers pulled away, court documents said, and Smith punched him three times.
Chambers had a visible cut and swelling to his forehead afterward, court documents said. The altercation was captured on surveillance video.
Fort Wayne Police asked the Indiana State Police to investigate what happened, which resulted in a misdemeanor battery count being levied against Smith.
In court documents filed during Chambers’ excessive force lawsuit, Smith denied several aspects of what happened. His lawyers wrote that several of the allegations were “not a complete and accurate depiction of the facts.”
The jury ultimately concurred, and sided with Smith.