A man who was allegedly beaten by two Schenectady County Jail employees has filed a federal lawsuit against the two officers, the county and the sheriff.
In the lawsuit John Mannarino alleges several federal and state rights were violated while he was in the sheriff’s custody in November 2020.
Mannarino said on Nov. 9, 2020 he was set to be released on his own recognizance following an appearance in Niskayuna Town Court when he was taken into custody by the Sheriff’s Department.
While at the jail, Mannarino said, Officer Eugene Sellie refused to call the Town Court to straighten the matter out. Mannarino alleges he was brought into an unsupervised room within the correctional facility.
“Once in the room, Sellie incited the plaintiff to swing at Sellie, which the plaintiff refused, at which point Sellie kicked plaintiff in the chest, thrusting plaintiff towards a wall,” say court documents. “Sellie then repeatedly struck plaintiff in the head, face, torso, ribcage, back, lower spine and shoulder.”
Mannarino said Sgt. Timothy Bruce was close enough to hear what was happening and did not intervene.
Mannarino alleges in the court documents that Sellie used excessive force that led to several serious injuries including a broken clavicle, multiple broken ribs on each side of his torso, a collapsed lung, internal injuries, contusions to his chest and shoulder, contusions to his back, face and head and severe emotional distress.
Once Mannarino was able to leave he said he could not breathe and no jail employees would help him. Mannarino collapsed on the sidewalk outside the facility. He was taken to Ellis Hospital after a probation officer happened to come upon Mannarino, according to court documents.
At the hospital, Mannarino had a tube placed in his lungs to help him breathe and underwent surgery that included inserting plates and 12 screws into his shoulders, according to court documents.
Mannarino said the alleged assault and the imprisonment were a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Mannarino is also suing the county and Sheriff Dominic Dagostino under a Monell claim, which allows people to sue municipalities for unconstitutional policies and practices. The lawsuit also alleges two violations of state law.
County Attorney Chris Gardner said the two officers were fired. Sellie is charged with two counts of second-degree assault, felonies, and two counts of official misconduct. Bruce is charged with two misdemeanor counts of official misconduct.
The cases are still pending.
“Trials are kind of backed up right now,” Gardner said.
Sellie’s attorney has previously argued that Mannarino tried to attack Sellie.
He said both officers filed grievances regarding their jobs.
“We expect that the grievances will be moot once the criminal charges are adjudicated,” Gardner said. “Under section 30 of the Public Officers Law, a public officer convicted of a felony or of a misdemeanor involving a violation of their oath of office vacates their office upon conviction.”
Gardner said he has not seen the federal lawsuit yet. However, he said the county will discuss the matter with Mannarino’s attorney.
“We acknowledge that this individual was wronged and we’re prepared to deal with that in due course as we enter discussions with the plaintiff’s attorney,” Gardner said. “We have, I think, probably a different evaluation on what the injuries may be worth.”
Mannarino’s attorney, Kevin Luibrand, said Mannarino is back to work, although not in the same capacity he once was because his injuries have limited his ability to lift certain weights. Luibrand declined to say where his client worked but said it is a “large company that’s well-known in the area.”
He said they are planning on moving forward with the case and if the county wants to have discussions that’s up to them.
“It’s one of the worst physical assaults in jail that one might see,” Luibrand said.
Luibrand declined to comment on how much in damages his client was seeking. The notice of claim originally sought $2.5 million in damages.
Reporter Shenandoah Briere can be reached at 518-478-3320 or [email protected]