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Norwalk woman appeals police brutality ruling

Jessica Cuffman • Oct 7, 2012 at 11:08 AM

Mimi Lee, 35, of Norwalk, was arrested May 7, 2009, for operating a vehicle under the influence.

After a caller told police Lee was urinating in a parking lot outside a hospital, officers arrived to find Lee leaving the hospital in a truck. They followed her to a Burger Kinger parking lot across the street, where Norwalk police Officer James Montana arrested her for drunken driving.

Lee’s lawsuit said she was a victim of excessive force from the moment she was handcuffed to the moment she left the police station.

She filed a lawsuit in federal court, but in August, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Knepp issued a 24-page opinion clearing Montana and three other officers working that night, including police Chief David Light.

Video surveillance footage of Lee’s time in custody showed much of her interactions with the officers.

“There is no evidence defendant Montana or any other officer exerted excessive force or acted unreasonably with regard to the handcuffing,” Knepp’s ruling stated. “Despite her assertions, the video evidence shows plaintiff was physically and verbally combative, and the video also shows this was much more than the ‘minimal non-compliance’ plaintiffs suggest occurred.”

In her lawsuit, Lee said she remained “totally passive.”

The video recording showed otherwise, according to Knepp’s ruling.

While at the police station, Lee threw a paper across the room; tried to walk past Officer Christian Hipp; kicked backward toward Montana, who she also shoved; and continued to struggle after he pinned her to a table and then the floor.

Lee’s lawsuit said Montana lost his temper, but the federal judge disagreed.

“Nothing suggests he lost his temper — in fact, he appears quite calm throughout the entire recording,” Knepp said.

Lee also accused officers of choking her, dragging her by the handcuffs and slamming her onto the ground.

The video shows Montana placing Lee into a choke-hold while she was bent over a table, but he did so after she shoved Hipp and tried to kick Montana.

When he allowed her to stand up after about 15 seconds of holding her down, Lee then tried to shove Montana, who forced her to the floor. Officers held her feet to keep her from kicking and she was handcuffed again.

“The evidence simply does not establish (Montana) had any evil motive or intent, or acted with reckless disregard for plaintiff’s rights,” Knepp’s ruling stated.

According to court documents, Lee filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The documents do not state a basis for the appeal.

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