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Published: Tuesday, 7/24/2012

Trial of 2 St. Vincent security guards opens

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A civil trial began Monday in a case brought by a Michigan man who says he was the victim of excessive force by guards at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center.

Lawyers made opening statements after a panel of eight jurors and two alternates was selected in Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Fred McDonald's courtroom.

The Rev. Al Poisson of Temperance alleges that Mercy guards Bradley Friess and Joshua Shepler beat him and brought "malicious" criminal charges against him after he made a jesting remark to a guard while visiting the hospital July 21, 2007. Hospital attorneys say Mr. Poisson started the confrontation and brought legitimate physical force on himself by refusing to cooperate with guards' instructions and by fighting.

Mr. Poisson, who is not currently affiliated with a ministerial organization but was previously a chaplain for the Gospel Rescue Mission in Toledo, is seeking compensation for mental and emotional suffering as well as punitive damages.

His attorney, Stevin Groth, said Mr. Poisson was visiting a family friend in the hospital and began engaging two security guards in conversation.

When he asked one officer if he was "happy," and received a gruff affirmative response, Mr. Poisson told the officer he should "tell his face."

That led to the guards ordering him to leave, while using profanities, and then hustling Mr. Poisson outside the hospital, where he was repeatedly kicked, punched, handcuffed, and Tasered, according to the lawsuit.

Mr. Groth said the beating took place in front of Mr. Poisson's family and resulted in criminal charges being filed against him in Toledo Municipal Court. The case was dismissed nearly a year later.

Mr. Groth said the hospital destroyed an incriminating videotape. "My client did nothing wrong to deserve that beat-down," he said.

Jurors saw a videotape of Mr. Poisson being escorted outside by the two officers, and at the end, Mr. Poisson appears to fall away. According to Mr. Groth, that was when he was hit with a Taser gun.

Jean Sieler, a lawyer for the hospital, told jurors no videotape was destroyed, and the two officers acted appropriately. She said Mr. Poisson started the confrontation by "knocking out the leg" of one officer, and then refusing to leave the emergency room area.

She said one officer's Taser came out when Mr. Poisson fought back against the other officer and knocked him to the ground. She also said the Taser was set on "dry stun," rather than the full stun that would have sent barbs into its target.

She said he continued to fight and was dry-stunned a second time.

She said the emergency room is a busy place and that guards are responsible for keeping the area clear for medical attention.

"You're a guest. But once you're asked to leave, you're a trespasser," Ms. Sieler said. "Poisson decided to engage these guys physically and verbally in the E.R."

Ms. Sieler said the dismissed criminal complaint against Mr. Poisson was brought by a Toledo officer who did his own investigation.

Testimony by witnesses is expected to start today. The case is expected to take about a week.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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