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Senters v. Boyd County

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland

May 21, 2018

JULIA SENTERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOYD COUNTY, KENTUCKY, BOYD COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, JASON C. NATTIER, Individually and in his Official Capacity as Deputy Boyd County Sheriff, SCOTT CRAWFORD, Individually and in his Official Capacity as Deputy Boyd County Sheriff and GREG POWERS, Individually and in his Official Capacity as Deputy Boyd County Sheriff, DEFENDANTS.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Henry R. Wllhoit, Jr., Judge.

         This matter is before the Court upon Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 42]. The issues have been fully briefed by the parties [Docket Nos. 50 and 53]. For the reasons set forth herein, this Court finds that the Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         The lawsuit involves allegations of excessive use of force arising from the arrest of Julia Senters on December 9, 2014. Senters alleges that Defendant Boyd County Sheriff Deputies Jason Nattier, Scott Crawford and Greg Powers violated Plaintiffs rights under the United States Constitution to be free from unreasonable use of force and to receive due process, as well as various state laws and that Defendants Boyd County and Boyd County Sheriffs Office were negligent in their training, retention and supervision of these Deputies. She seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as applicable fees and costs.

         I.

         On December 9, 2014, Plaintiff, Julia Senters was at her home on Rockhouse Road in Boyd County, Kentucky with Aaron Niswonger and Gregory George. [Docket No. 46');">46, Deposition of Julia Senters, p. 108]. Senters cannot recall how long Niswonger and George were at her house that day, but testified that they were both drinking. Id. at pp.113-114.

         Sometime between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m., a fight broke out between the two men while Senters was in another room. Id. at pp. 113-114. During the altercation, George sustained a large cut on his head and scalp. Id. Senters formerly worked in the medical field so she attempted to stop the bleeding by stapling George's scalp. Id. at p. 116.

         At some point., Niswonger left Senters' home. Id. Shortly thereafter, Senters drove George to his friend, Bill Niswsonger's, Aaron's brother, house in Ashland. Id. at p. 120. She then returned to her home and "drank a few beers". Id. at p. 121.

         While he was at Bill Niswonger's house, George contacted the Boyd County Sheriffs Department to report the assault. Deputy Jason Nattier learned of the call at approximately 9 p.m. [Docket No. 45');">45');">45');">45, Deposition of Jason Nattier, p. 50]. He believed that the report would be within the jurisdiction of the Ashland Police Department, but because he was familiar with Bill's brother and the alleged attacker, Aaron Niswonger, from past cases, he drove to Bill Niswonger's house to assist with the call. Id. at. pp. 51-52.

         Upon arrival at the Niswonger home, Nattier spoke to George, who told him he had been assaulted at Senters' home, which confirmed that the incident was within the jurisdiction of the Boyd County Sheriff. Id. at p. 54. Nattier discerned that George had been drinking, but that he appeared lucid enough to provide details of Aaron Niswonger's assault on him. Id. George reported that he had been drinking with some friends, including Aaron Niswonger, earlier that night. Id. He stated that he had said something which angered Aaron, who then began hitting and kicking him. [Docket No. 41-1, KYIBRS REPORT]. According to George, the attack did not stop until blood was visibly coming out of his head. Id. Nattier also observed the laceration on George's's head, as well as the staples. [Docket No. 45');">45');">45');">45, p. 53]. After giving his statement to Nattier, George was taken to Kings Daughters Medical Center. Id.

         Nattier then began his investigation of the assault. He first went to Aaron Niswonger's home but no one was there. [Docket No. 45');">45');">45');">45, p. 62]. He then drove to Senters' home and asked Deputies Scott Crawford and Greg Powers to meet him there. Id. at pp. 62-63.

         The Deputies parked their cruisers and walked up the hill to Senters' house. Id. Nattier went to the front door, Crawford stayed back in the yard near where a truck was parked, and Powers went to the back of the house to ensure that no one ran out that door. Id. at p. 64.

         Nattier knocked on Senters' front door. Id. at p. 66. Upon hearing the knock, Senters went to the window, looked outside, and saw the deputies. [Docket No. 46');">46, p. 129]. Senters asked what they wanted and a deputy, she could not recall which one, replied that they were looking for Aaron Niswonger. Id. at pp. 130-131.

         Senters testified that she asked the deputies why they were looking for Niswonger and one of them, she could not recall which one, threatened to arrest her for practicing medicine without a license. Id. Recognizing this to be a reference to the fight between George and Niswonger, Senters opened the door, went outside, and locked the door behind her. Id. at pp. 132-133.

         Senters testified that one of the deputies asked to come inside, saying he would probably find blood. Id. at pp. 136.137. Senters refused consent for the deputies to go in her home. Id.

         Nattier then asked for Senters' identification. Id. at p. 138. Without objecting, she unlocked the door and went inside to get her driver's license. Id. She returned back to the porch and locked the door behind her again. Id.

         After returning with her license, Senters handed it to Nattier. Id. at pp. 139-140. Nattier took her license, looked at it, and explained to her that he needed to verify her information because she was a witness to a potential assault. Id. at pp. 143-145');">45');">45');">45.

         This is where the stories diverge.

         Nattier testified that, at this point, Senters became verbally combative. According to Nattier, when he asked for her social security number Senters said "why do you F***ing need it?". He said because he asked for it. [Docket No. 42-2, Transcript of Jury Trial]. According to Nattier, Senters said to him, "give me my stuff as she swung her right arm around toward his left hand in which he held her wallet and identification. Id. Nattier testified that he moved his hands out of the way and told her she was under arrest. Id.

         Senters testified that after she gave Nattier her license, the officers asked whether Niswonger was in her house but she denied that he was inside. [Docket No. 45');">45');">45');">45, pp. 143-145');">45');">45');">45]. When she denied Niswonger was in the house, Senters claims the officers called her a "lying bitch" and a "liar" and, as a result, she became "very" upset. Id. Because she was upset, she threw her arms in the air, and yelled "bullsh***!" When she did this, Senters estimates that she was close to the officer, only between 2 and 5 feet away. Id. at p. 149.

         According to both Nattier and Crawford, Senters did not merely throw her arms in the air, but, rather, swung her arm at Nattier as if she was attempting to strike him. [Docket No. 45');">45');">45');">45, pp. 97-99].

         Senters testified that one of the deputies told her she was under arrest and immediately took her to the ground. [Docket No. 46');">46. p. 150]. Senters admits that she was ordered to put her arms behind her back, but claims that her body landed on her left arm and she was unable to bring it around behind her body in order to be handcuffed. Id., at pp. 159-161.

         Crawford then warned Senters that she would be tased if she failed to bring her arm behind her back, but she still did not do it because her ...


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