CLEVELAND, Ohio — A gay couple has filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court against several officers from the Cleveland Police Department, alleging several officers of the department violated the couple’s constitutional rights stemming from an arrest last April.
In court documents filed by the couple’s attorney — nationally-recognized civil rights attorney David Malik — Jonathan Simcox and his partner, Steven Ondo, claim they were subjected to “excessive force and undisguised prejudice,” because of their sexual orientation.
Simcox and Ondo alledge they were subjected to derogatory name-calling and then hauled off to jail in their underwear, despite repeated requests to change clothes.
The lawsuit also states that the men were ordered to stand outside in their front lawn for 5-10 minutes while they were publicly humiliated.
“We were called faggots a lot by police, and I consider that a fighting word.” His partner added; “It was more humiliating than I can even explain to you,” Simcox told WJW-TV.
The lawsuit stems from last April’s arrest of the couple for creating a public disturbance and assault on a police officer.
According to the couple, they were walking home from a bar when they started arguing. They say a neighbor, who happened to be an off-duty Cleveland police officer came outside and confronted them.
“He came out over shouting, saying, ‘Shut up, you`re disturbing the peace’,” said Simcox. “I pushed to get past him, as soon as I did that he knocked me on the ground, and just started beating me, hitting me, standing over top of me, and punching me repeatedly.”
A few minutes later, more officers arrived at their house, they were arrested and hauled off to jail.
“At the time my hands were all cut up, I was covered in blood,” said Simcox. Simcox and Ondo said they were later released from jail and told that no charges were being filed against them.
In the lawsuit filed this week, the men state that a week later, in an early morning raid, “6 or 7 members of the Cleveland Police Warrant Team” woke them, informing them they were wanted on a warrant for “assaulting a peace officer.”
The men state each time they tried asking questions, the officers became increasingly violent. “The officer in the glasses grabbed me by my shirt, and punched me twice in the face, after he punched me, he threw me up against the wall,” said Simcox.
Simcox says at the time of the arrest, he and his partner were wearing only underwear and t-shirts. When Simcox’s brother asked police if he could get them some pants and shoes, one of the officers allegedly responded by saying, “You can go get them shoes, but faggots don`t deserve to wear pants in jail.”
The lawsuit states that the men were ordered to stand outside in their front lawn for five to 10 minutes wearing only their t-shirts and underwear while they were publicly humiliated. The couple were then taken to jail and according to the lawsuit for, “at least one whole day their repeated requests for pants were denied.”
“The City of Cleveland is aware that the lawsuit has been filed and will appropriately address this legal matter in court. At this point, the City has no comment on this pending litigation,” Interim Law Director Barbara Langhenry told WJW-TV.
Civil rights attorney Sam Riotte told the station, “Jonathan and Steven’s rights were violated in part of who they are, because they are homosexuals.” As for the assault charge, Riotte said, “They went to trial, it was proven they didn’t do anything wrong, they were found not guilty.”