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Motion opposing summary judgment filed in suit against city

WORTHINGTON -- The attorney for plaintiffs Jesus Leon and Antonio Duenas Pena filed documents Tuesday opposing a summary judgment in the civil suit against the City of Worthington and several of its employees, including a police officer.

A summary judgment occurs when a court makes a determination, or judgment, without a full trial. Such a judgment may be issued as to the merits of an entire case or of specific issues in that case.

The defendants -- the city, Worthington Police Sgt. Tim Gaul, Worthington Building Official Armand Eshleman and Worthington Manager of Planning and Economic Development Brad Chapulis -- had a motion filed on their behalf in March for a summary judgment, which essentially would allow a judge to dismiss the charges if he or she so chose after the attorneys had the opportunity to argue their case for or against the judgment.

The documents filed on behalf of Leon and Pena by attorney Manuel Guerrero are in opposition of the summary judgment motion and state the defendants are not entitled to summary judgment based on a failure to state a claim or a lack of material issue of fact.

The four causes of action against the defendants include a claim against Gaul for alleged excessive use of force against Leon, a substantive due process claim against Worthington for its officials' alleged actions that forced the plaintiffs out of business, a claim of alleged negligence against the three men and a claim of alleged retaliation.

An affidavit of Leon states he remembers three or four warnings for loud noise before January 2007, whereas a synopsis of calls prepared by Worthington Public Safety Director Mike Cumiskey documents 12 warnings.

Leon claims Gaul slammed him against a door frame on the night of March 16, 2007, while he was in handcuffs -- "a violent thrust" that caused a left shoulder dislocation. The exhibit filed to support this claim, partial medical records of Leon, show no concrete proof there was a separation. It is simply documented that Leon told health care providers he was injured in an altercation with police. The medical records from the day of the incident state everything is normal, other than Leon's stated tenderness.

The claims against the other city employees are supported by depositions from Leon and Pena, but the depositions of Chapulis and Eshleman deny the claims. With no witnesses to the conversations other than the plaintiffs and defendants, it will come down to one person's word against another's.

A witness list of 21 people was filed by the plaintiffs, and in his deposition, Leon states all but one of those people were in the club the night of the alleged altercation between Leon and Gaul. The affidavit of another police officer was filed by the defendants to support Gaul's claims he never pushed Leon into a wall or made derogatory comments.

The hearing for the summary judgment motion will take place at 2:30 p.m. May 29 in the U.S. Courthouse in Minneapolis. Instead of rendering a decision from the bench, the judge will file his decision on the motion sometime afterward.