Michael Bratt claims Hernando County sheriff's deputies beat him to the point that his eyeball fell out of its socket, and is now suing them for more than $10 million.
The lawsuit has been filed against deputies Louis Genovese, Steven George, Kenneth Van Tassel, and John Gore. It claims constitutional rights were violated, there was use of excessive force, an unlawful search, false arrest, and the covering up of excessive force, reports Hernando Today.
According to a report filed by deputy Steven George, the fault does not lie with the deputies; it was instigated by Bratt.
In December 2009 a noise complaint was made against Michael Bratt and his wife Marjorie Youman's Christmas party. George responded to the complaint, and after speaking with neighbors, jumped the fence that surrounded their property instead of using the call box at the front gate. Bratt answered the front door and asked to see George's badge, showing signs of anger, saying he was trespassing, reports the Tampa Bay Times.
Things then got heated as Youmans came to the door and started yelling at the deputy. Bratt shoved his wife back to stop her tirade, and George informed him he was committing domestic battery.
George then called for backup. That's when Bratt allegedly grabbed him, pulled him into the house, and slammed his head into a coffee table. After a struggle in which Bratt was able to get hold of George's Taser and use it against him, he managed to handcuff Bratt on the floor.
Bratt tells a completely different story.
In the complaint, Youmans' yelling is admitted to, as is George's unanticipated arrival at the door to their home. But Bratt and Youman state Bratt held out his arm to hold his wife back and George then screamed about battery taking place and tried to force his way into the home.
Bratt says the Taser was used by George against him through the front door, before he burst inside, stumbled, and fell face-first on the tile floor. George then called in for backup, and according to the Tampa Bay Times, he reported he was an officer "down."
Hernando Today reports that when the other deputies arrived Bratt tried to fight them off, attempting to bite and spit at a deputy and kick out a windshield.
Bratt says he was dragged outside by the deputies in handcuffs and then beaten by Van Tassel and Genovese. Genovese, a 300-pound deputy, "proceeded to drive his knee into Mr. Bratt's face, shattering Mr. Bratt's orbital bone and causing Mr. Bratt's eye to fall into the cavity of his cheek," according to the lawsuit.
Bratt was brought up on criminal charges of felony battery and two counts of battery on a law enforcement officer for the incident. He was acquitted on all charges.
Bratt's defense attorney Stephen Romine said during the trial officer's statements were inconsistent with one another, implicating a cover-up.
The Taser, which contains digital records that could have helped substantiate the claims in the case, went missing for five days and when it was recovered the data was said to be corrupted.
Making matters worse for the sheriff's department, no officer on scene that evening will admit to, or explain, how Bratt received the injury to his eye.