Verdict against police officer awards $75,000 to plaintiff

WORTHINGTON -- A verdict from a federal jury on Friday awarded plaintiff Gilbert Montiel $75,000, an action stemming from a case filed in 2006 against Worthington Police Officer Randy Liepold.

WORTHINGTON -- A verdict from a federal jury on Friday awarded plaintiff Gilbert Montiel $75,000, an action stemming from a case filed in 2006 against Worthington Police Officer Randy Liepold.

Worthington Public Safety Director Mike Cumiskey said Monday he is disappointed with the verdict and believes Montiel's conduct, not Liepold's actions, caused injuries to Montiel's shoulder, elbow and thumb.

The complaint filed by Montiel, the plaintiff, states Liepold was dispatched to Montiel's home after the man's girlfriend called to report he was intoxicated. The defendant's answering document, however, states Liepold was dispatched when authorities were informed by a female that a male was attempting to break into her house.

The two accounts of the situation vary, from Montiel's documents stating Liepold grabbed him and slammed him to the ground without any need or justification, to Liepold's account of Montiel's drunken yelling, swearing and attempting to take a swing at the officer.

In the process of Montiel being subdued, he suffered injuries to his shoulder, elbow and thumb, which later required surgery to repair. The complaint filed against Liepold asked for a money judgment in excess of $750,000 and punitive damages. The jury, however, disagreed.


Jurors did not believe Liepold used unreasonable force grabbing and slamming the defendant to the ground, but considered the alleged wrenching of his arm behind his back during the handcuffing process unreasonable.

The jury was asked to award the plaintiff a sum based on the pain and suffering of the plaintiff, reasonable medical costs and lost wages. They chose the amount of $75,000, which will be covered by the city's insurance carrier.

"We asked the jury not to reward (Montiel) for his conduct," Cumiskey said. "There were no punitive damages awarded, so in some aspect, the jury didn't think it was worth punishing the officer."

Cumiskey believes Liepold did nothing wrong, but said sometimes in the course of using reasonable force, people get hurt.

"When (Liepold) said Montiel took a swing at him, I stand 100 percent behind him about what happened," Cumiskey said. "If I felt an officer did something that merited discipline, my officers know (Capt. Chris Dybevick) and I will do that."

The trial was supposed to commence earlier this month, but was declared a mistrial -- a fact Cumiskey finds ironic. He explained that one of the original jurors told the judge she felt ill, but the trial was not halted. When the woman lost consciousness and started to fall from her chair, Liepold saw what was happening and jumped to help, asking the court officer to call 911 while he rendered medical aid.

"(Liepold) ran to offer assistance," Cumiskey commented. "I have to commend him for doing what he is trained to do. This is the character of Randy Liepold."

Cumiskey, who attended all four days of the trial, said he listened to the frantic 911 call that came in Oct. 7, 2005, about someone breaking into a house -- the call Liepold responded to.


"With a call like that, you don't know what is going on," he explained. "This is a frantic situation with people yelling at each other."

The plaintiff's documents suggest Liepold tried to cover up his actions by filing a "false and misleading" police report while failing to report the injuries Montiel sustained.

"They were attacking his integrity to make their allegations look true," Dybevick stated. "But it is not true at all."

According to Cumiskey, the only dishonesty came from Montiel, who admitted on the stand he lied to a therapist about how he hurt his arm and also said he was only working 30 to 35 hours a week after his injury, when documents from his employer showed he worked no less than a 40-hour work week over a 70-week period.

"I hold no ill will (toward Montiel)," Cumiskey said. "I hope he makes a full recovery and gets his other two surgeries."

Having already had a surgery on his shoulder and elbow, physicians recommend Montiel have two more surgeries, Cumiskey explained.

Cumiskey's biggest concern is that the verdict will make other officers think about how they will be judged if someone files a lawsuit against them.

"Officers have to make split-second decisions," he added. "It is easy to look back at his actions -- 20/20 hindsight."


"(Liepold) followed police department policy, and I don't question his actions at all," Dybevick said.

According to documents from Nobles County regarding the arrest of Montiel in 2005, he was charged with fifth-degree assault, obstructing the legal process and disorderly conduct. He later pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in a plea agreement that dismissed the other two charges.

Both Cumiskey and Dybevick were pleased with Mayor Alan Oberloh and the city's support during the past two years and the four-day trial. Worthington City Administrator Joe Parker attended the trial with Cumiskey and Liepold to offer his support.

"The mayor, (Parker) and the city council -- they will never know how much that means to us," Cumiskey commented.

"It is worth its weight in gold," Dybevick added.

In the same way the mayor and city council supports them, Cumiskey and Dybevick stand behind Liepold.

"We stand behind our officers and the actions they take on behalf of the City of Worthington," Cumiskey stated. "What (Liepold) did at the first trial -- helping that woman -- is what he does everyday. He is that guy."

The attorneys who defended Liepold will review the verdict to determine whether to appeal.

What To Read Next
Get Local