WASHINGTON -- A lawsuit against a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who was accused of choking and hog-tying a 12-year-old boy in 2010 has been settled for $4,500.
The 2012 lawsuit alleged that Ferguson Police Officer Justin Cosma, who was then serving as a police officer in Jefferson County, Missouri, and his then-colleague Richard Carter approached the shirtless 12-year-old as the boy was checking his mailbox at the end of his driveway.
"Unprovoked and without cause, the deputies grabbed [the boy], choked him around the neck and threw him to the ground," the lawsuit, which was filed by the victim's family, said. The officers allegedly then “hog tied” the young boy, which means they restrained him by tying his hands to his feet. The child, according to the lawsuit, "suffered bruising, choke marks, scrapes and cuts across his body" due to his treatment by the officers, and had to be "transported to a medical facility for medical treatment."
The suit alleged that the force used by Cosma and his colleague was "unreasonable and excessive" and that the young child was "unable to protect himself."
Cosma and his colleague then allegedly attempted to charge the child with "assault of a law enforcement officer third degree” and “resisting/interfering with arrest, detention or stop." But the suit said that prosecutors refused to take the case.
Jason S. Retter, the lawyer representing Jefferson County and the two officers, offered a different account of events. He said that the boy was “found alone and confused on the shoulder of the highway” and “was restrained for his own safety and well-being, although he did violently resist.”
Retter said in an email to The Huffington Post that, after the boy's mother filed the lawsuit, the juvenile admitted that he had not been “hog-tied.” While Retter did not dispute that the boy “was scraped or bruised while trying to fight or flee, or even during the course of the Deputies' actions to restrain him,” he said the officers did not do anything wrong.
A federal judge granted a motion to dismiss the case this week after being notified of the settlement. Retter said that the settlement amount, $4,500, was "significantly less than the cost of continued litigation.”
The lawsuit was filed shortly after Cosma joined the Ferguson Police Department in 2012. It is unclear why the officer left the larger Jefferson County Sheriff's Office to join the small police department in Ferguson.
Carter, the other officer involved in the lawsuit, was recently elected auditor of Jefferson County.
Retter conceded that there are “ongoing important conversations about issues related to race and policing in our country,” but maintained that “in this particular case, the young man simply was not ‘hog-tied’ and the Deputies did and do believe they were preventing him from immediately harming himself.”
Jefferson County Sheriff Oliver “Glenn” Boyer also defended the officers in an interview with The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and claimed the young boy was trying to hurt himself. “When they got there, the young male was wishing to harm himself and darted out into the traffic lane,” Boyer told the paper. “We grabbed him and subdued him.”
Richard R. Lozano, a lawyer who represented the boy, did not respond to a request for comment.
Back in August, Cosma assisted in taking this reporter into custody at a McDonald's in Ferguson as demonstrations were taking place far down the street in connection with the death of Michael Brown. In that incident, Cosma refused to identify himself or any of his colleagues from the St. Louis County Police Department, none of whom were wearing name plates.
Cosma is just one of many officers in the Ferguson Police Department whose actions have come under scrutiny. The Justice Department is currently conducting a so-called pattern or practice investigation of the Ferguson Police Department.
This story has been updated to include further detail about the lawsuit and comment from Jason Retter.