The founder of Cop Blaster just deposited a check from Multnomah County to settle his excessive force lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in response to Multnomah County Sheriff's Deputy Timothy Barker intentionally breaking the arm of Cop Blaster founder Cyrus Sullivan. Sullivan obtained the settlement despite pleading guilty to assaulting Barker and being forced to represent himself through summary judgment before the court put out a request for pro bono counsel. Sullivan feels the amount of the settlement says a lot about the value of pain and suffering.
On June 28, 2017, Cop Blaster founder Cyrus Sullivan was incarcerated in the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) on a U.S. Marshal hold pending sentencing for a supervised release violation in federal court. Sullivan didn't really violate the conditions of his supervision but had been found guilty by a kangaroo court where despite not technically violating his conditions, he was found guilty anyway. Such conduct was consistent with his "criminal" cases which began with a government sanctioned stalker targeting Sullivan for refusing to remove a post written by someone else from a different website. The stalker was so tenacious that Sullivan eventually sent her a drunken death threat and received 24 months in federal prison. The stalker's behavior included doxing, swatting and threats all of which the government called "reasonable" (https://copblaster.com/uploads/files/edie-frolichman.pdf). The government even went as far as doxing Sullivan's old address on government websites run by the Justice Department, U.S. Attorney's Office, and the FBI until he made them take it down. Sullivan realized two could play doxer, so he responded by doing what the government already categorized as "reasonable" by making a list of names from his paperwork, researching their home addresses, and publishing them on Cop Blaster (note: the address field above is redacted for home addresses today but that was not the case for a while). He also memorized some addresses so that he could reasonably use them in the event of his incarceration.
First Amendment Retaliation
Sullivan was subsequently arrested and held without bail in a failed effort to get the site taken down. While in custody with his target market, Sullivan promoted his website as much as he could. Sometime his promotions would include highlighting problems at the jail and offering not to post anything about them or simply not to post information about those involved provided they fixed the problems. This led to a string of disciplinary infractions for things like threatening staff or just being downright disrespectful. Discovery later revealed a string of emails showing county and federal officials conspiring to find anything they could to charge him with a new crime. After months they had nothing.
One day Sullivan was minding his own business getting his medications when another inmate was nice enough to repay a legitimate debt by giving him powdered Gatorade. The exchange was followed by a rude medical technician named Erika Barker demanding that Sullivan give her his Gatorade. Sullivan drank the Gatorade right in front of her at which point Deputy Uwe Pemberton told Sullivan to enter the sally port. Sullivan immediately went back to his cell both to flush contraband and promote his business. To promote his business Sullivan informed deputies that there are consequences associated with writing him up which included researching their personal information and writing them up online. Sullivan made a reasonable offer not to write them up if they did not write him up. They responded by storming his cell, taking him to disciplinary, and breaking his arm.
Sullivan subsequently pled guilty to a single count of assaulting a federal officer for throwing a handful of spicy tortilla chips he had purchased from the commissary at deputies faces as they entered the cell. His guilty plea followed a meritorious yet unsuccessful attempt to dismiss the case for selective prosecution (https://copblaster.com/blast/1225/selective-prosecution-example-featuring-gregory-ralph-nyhus). Deputies involved in the cell extraction in addition to Barker were Matthew Ingram, Wendy Muth, Philip Hubert, and Paul Simpson. U.S. District Judge Jennifer Zipps barely accepted the plea (https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2018/09/spicy_chips_thrown_in_a_deputy.html) which led to a conference between the parties during which Sullivan agreed to say that he assumed a stance which would make a reasonable person fear bodily harm. Sullivan was always consistent and clear that he was only admitting to throwing chips, not getting his arm broken on the 5th floor as deputies claimed. He always maintained that his arm was not broken during the initial cell extraction on the 5th floor, he did not fight ferociously during transport as the deputies claimed, and his arm was broken by Barker after transporting him to the 4th floor by twisting it while he was pinned to a mattress in a prone position despite being cooperative. Sullivan's left humerus was broken in half.
No Proof of Injured Deputies
Deputies falsely accused Sullivan of punching and kicking them which led to a federal indictment under 18 U.S.C. 111(b) for assaulting federal officers resulting in bodily injury. Deputies are considered federal officers under federal law when interacting with federal detainees because they are assisting the federal government with federal functions. No deputy involved sought medical care and none of them took any pictures of so much as a mark on their bodies. There was no evidence of anyone other than Sullivan being injured. Lacking proof of injury contributed to Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Kerin offering Sullivan time served if he pled to the lesser charge of 18 U.S.C. 111(a)(1). One of Kerin's decision-making factors included an expert witness report from Dr. Wilson "Toby" Hayes of Hayes and Associates in Corvallis, Oregon (https://copblaster.com/uploads/files/expert-witness-report_compressed.pdf) which proved the deputies' version of events impossible. Dr. Hayes used scientific methods to determine that Sullivan's version of events is the only one which makes any scientific sense.
Surgeon Slammed Aftercare
Sullivan also retained the services of orthopedic surgeon Dr. Clive Segil who opined that Sullivan could not have fought ferociously or engage in similar conduct during transport as alleged (https://copblaster.com/uploads/files/redacted-expert-report.pdf). This was backed by Dr. Hayes' claim that Sullivan's bone would have been separated worse by the time of the x-ray had he been transported in the manner described by deputies. Dr. Segil also considered Sullivan's aftercare inferior to that which someone could expect in the community in support of Sullivan's medical malpractice claims against the Multnomah County Health Department and the head of "Corrections Health" Dr. Michael Seale.
Multnomah County hired Dr. Kevin Murphy of the Portland Timbers to rebut Dr. Hayes, but Dr. Murphy only offered a couple sentences to back up his partial rebuttal of Dr. Hayes. Those sentences can be summed up as a vague statement that the injury is "entirely consistent" with the deputies' version of events and that Dr. Murphy believes the events described by deputies on the 5th floor could explain the injury (https://copblaster.com/blast/48856/portland-timbers-team-doctor-helps-law-enforcement-defend-brutality). However, Sullivan intended to challenge the admissibility of Dr. Murphy as an expert on causation under Daubert because under Rule 26 an expert can only testify at trial as to the contents of his report (https://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcp/rule_26) and two vague sentences are hardly a Daubert proof explanation among other things. Dr. Murphy was silent as to the possibility of someone as seriously injured as Sullivan fighting deputies during transport and never ruled out Dr. Hayes' theory of causation. This left Sullivan knowing his experts were better than the county's but as his future lawyer pointed out, lawyers are good at characterizing experts as "only being paid if they agree" which works well on some jurors even though most experts charge for their analysis regardless of its results. That combined with the court indicating its willingness to allow the defense to present an alternate theory which would have involved trying to play dumb as to how it could have happened on the 4th floor but maintain that force reasonable somehow also weighted heavily on Sullivan's decision to settle the case.
Perhaps the biggest factor in Sullivan's decision to settle was the simple fact that other than experts it was his word against the word of every sworn deputy involved and he expected at least one juror to be favorable to law enforcement. Inmate witnesses present in the housing unit where the arm was broken were too mentally ill to provide reliable statements. Inmate witnesses in the 5th floor housing unit were impeachable due to their histories. Just one bad juror is all it takes for a mistrial in federal court. Then both sides must try the case all over again, which doubles time/expenses and there is no guarantee of the second trial not having the same result. There was no video evidence despite cameras watching every housing unit and hallway because they do not record. They are for "observational purposes only" according to MCSO.
Court Appoints Pro Bono Counsel
Sullivan represented himself through summary judgement (see PDF icon above article for Summary Judgment Order). Once Sullivan had beaten the government's efforts to dismiss the case by demonstrating genuine issues of material facts for a jury to decide, Judge Zipps requested that a pro bono lawyer be appointed to represent Sullivan for the remainder of the case. Juan Chavez of the Oregon Justice Resource Center (ojrc.info) accepted the appointment and represented Sullivan at a settlement conference in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Lynnette Kimmins on June 20th during which county attorney Andrew Weiner eventually agreed to compensate Sullivan $21,000 for his pain/suffering.
Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering aren't worth much despite often being the first thing a victim thinks to seek compensation for. Generally, pain and suffering are calculated using a formula based on medical expenses or lost work (see https://www.forbes.com/advisor/legal/personal-injury/pain-suffering-calculator/). The latter method referred to as "per diem" is based on a daily rate typically based on a day's wages which in the case of an inmate is almost always zero dollars. The former method known as the "multiplier result" is the method Sullivan used to judge the reasonableness of the settlement amount he received which was $1,000 higher than the $20,000 figure Judge Kimmins thought the case was worth.
Sullivan is not sure exactly how much money the county spent on his medical care but would be shocked if it exceeded $5,000 dollars. In 2020, the average cost of an emergency room visit in Oregon increased to $1,437 (https://www.cbsnews.com/pictures/emergency-room-visit-cost-most-expensive-states/16/) from being a few hundred dollars less just a few years earlier. Ambulance rides in Oregon average about the same. The treatment Sullivan received amounted to nothing more than a sling and swathe, 5 weeks of Norco pain medication, one in house follow-up with an orthopedic PA at the jail, one outpatient follow-up with OHSU during which x-rays were taken, and one visit from a pain management specialist resulting in a doubling of his Gabapentin prescription for nerve pain. There is no way any of those aftercare appointments cost more than $500 each and the fact that x-rays were taken does not alter this analysis.
Even if by some stretch of the imagination Sullivan's fees were $1,500 (ambulance), $1,500 (ER visit), $500 (in house orthopedist follow-up), $500 (outside follow-up), $500 for the pain (pain specialist), and $500 for everything else that would total $5,000. However, Sullivan would be surprised if either the ER visit or ambulance trip exceeded $1,200 each, the in house ortho was probably not more than $200, the outside visit not more than $300, and the in-house pain specialist not more than $300 while clearly not more than $200 was spent on pain medication. The sling was of course worthless. That would put the total cost of care at probably not more than $3,500 which with a maximum multiplier could not exceed $17,500.
Seriousness of Injury
The multiplier result takes the total amount of medical expenses and multiplies it by a number between 1.5 and 5 depending on the seriousness of the injury. Sullivan feels he could make a plausible argument for a multiplier of 5 due to the crippling pain he experienced, but realistically thinks his multiplier no higher than 4.5 most likely a 4. Sullivan believes that because he did not receive surgery that a 5 would be inappropriate. Most broken arms would be lower on the scale, but he had a through and through break of the humerus which is extremely painful.
Total Pain and Suffering
If the county spent $5,000 on Sullivan's medical care and he could claim a maximum multiplier of 5 that still would only entitle him to $25,000 for pain and suffering. As outlined above, the total amount spent by the county was likely less than $3,500 with a multiplier of 4 or 4.5 which would result in a range between $14,000 and $15,750. Based on these calculations Sullivan believes he came out ahead as far as pain and suffering goes.
Emotional Distress Unquantifiable
Sullivan knew he was also entitled to compensation for emotional distress but was unable to quantify it. He already suffered from PTSD due to incidents which took place 20 years ago. The county would have argued that PTSD is a preexisting condition in his case and that would have made it difficult for him to claim long term emotional distress. Sullivan had been court ordered to receive mental health counseling while on supervision but federal probation officers as well as his own lawyers were unable to find anyone willing to take him as a patient for anything beyond medication maintenance. As a result, what should have been a case involving ongoing mental health treatment bills became one with no evidence of treatment at all due simply to Sullivan being denied care by society.
Other Recent Cases
Juan Chavez's guidance was quite useful especially when it came to helping Sullivan view his case compared to others.
The most convincing case Chavez shared with Sullivan was the one of Erin Wenzel vs. the Portland Police Bureau (PPB). Wenzel was viciously attacked by an officer during a mostly peaceful protest in Portland in 2020. She was also struck in the head while on the ground (See https://www.oregonlive.com/crime/2022/10/portland-protester-pushed-by-police-wins-40k-for-broken-arm.html). She suffered a broken arm and received a $39,000 judgment following a jury trial. Of that only $26,000 was for pain and suffering while the rest was for her medical bills. Her $14,000 in medical bills was most likely largely due to mental health treatment sought for PTSD. The cost to treat the break and her follow-ups was likely quite small because her fracture was minor which explains why a multiplier of just about 2 was likely used for that reason.
Also weighing on Sullivan's decision was a 2019 case in which a jury agreed that a Portland Police officer broke a 66-year-old woman's nose while using excessive force but didn't award her any money (https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2019/04/jury-awards-no-money-to-66-year-old-protester-who-broke-nose-when-police-smashed-her-face-to-street.html). That case differed in that jurors were not sure if the nose was intentionally broken but was similar because the woman was engaged in activities known to lead to physical encounters with law enforcement. Sullivan was worried that jurors might find that Barker broke his arm on the 4th floor and decide not to award him any money due to Sullivan's provocative behavior and subsequent guilty plea. Unlike Sullivan, the old lady didn't plead guilty to assaulting the officer before getting her nose broken. Sullivan was concerned that some jurors wouldn't be able to get past the context of a guilty criminal defendant suing the named victim in an assault case after pleading guilty. He also thought a jury might not want to award him any money even if they believed him simply because they wouldn't want to reward someone who wouldn't have been in that situation had he not assaulted/threatened a deputy who just so happened to be the husband of Erika Barker who Sullivan threatened to track down information about before going back to his cell.
Who You Are Matters
The value of pain and suffering for one person is different from that of another regardless of the injury. Sullivan was in substantial pain for about 6 weeks before the outside pain expert showed up to give him the right amount of nerve pain medication. He was still uncomfortable for awhile but fine for the most part at that point. He was in more pain after being transferred to FDC Sheridan, but that was due to the Bureau of Prisons discontinuing his nerve pain medication nation wide and not providing an adequate substitute according to Dr. Amador Cantu (https://copblaster.com/blast/115/only-adequate-healthcare-from-dr-amador-cantu). Sullivan was not about to blame the county for the pain and suffering suffered due to the discontinuation of adequate nerve pain medication by Dr. Cantu.
If the county is to blame for 6 weeks of substantial pain in Sullivan's case that works out to about $500/day for his pain and suffering prior to the county giving him adequate nerve pain medication after which he was still uncomfortable. Sullivan hopes that $500/day will inspire inmates to secure their rights in the future but cautions that guards don't lose their cool this badly often enough to make attempts worthwhile.
People in society often have legal fees, medical bills, and lost wages to pursue when brutally injured by law enforcement to this extent, but Sullivan had none of those things. He was subsequently sentenced to time served over a year later after being held without bail so no lost wages, the government paid for his "healthcare" so no medical bills, and he had no legal bills because he became such a pro se nightmare that the judge appointed him a pro bono lawyer for free despite him as a plaintiff in a civil suit having no constitutional entitlement to counsel whatsoever for the specific purpose of resolving the matter efficiently.
No Video Evidence
As mentioned earlier, the cameras do not record in the housing units at MCDC. That is why Barker and pals got away with this. They of course don't wear body cameras either, so they have their own little dungeon where you go in and come out charged with assaulting them based solely on their word. Their word works great for proving inmates guilty of crimes already so who needs video evidence? Clearly not recording does more to reduce their own liabilities than it does to help back up criminal accusations against inmates.
Chavez stressed to Sullivan the high likelihood of a hung jury and the doubling of expenses that would create. Judge Kimmins later brought up the same concerns worded in an eerily similar manner. In federal court the jury must be unanimous either way or a mistrial is declared. When a mistrial is declared the case is tried again until a verdict is reached. Sullivan thought it too likely that at least one unreasonable juror would vote against him based on their own personal conflicting opinions despite the evidence.
Chavez's concerns about a hung jury and the cost of trying the case again both in terms of time as well as money were echoed by Judge Kimmins. They were also reminiscent of every lawyer who refused to take Sullivan's case initially, which is why he had to file pro se. Lawyers lost interest over the guilty plea and Sullivan's history of "assaulting" law enforcement despite Sullivan already having an expert on board from his criminal case. They assumed despite the federal government's inability to seek an expert of their own that the county would find one capable of fully disputing everything simply because someone out there claiming to be an expert needs the money.
Also of concern was the hypothetical "machinist" who never missed a day of work despite hurting like hell, is too stupid to get out of jury duty, and mad as hell at Sullivan for costing him lost wages he would've earned had Sullivan just done as he was told like the "machinist" has done his entire life. At least the "machinist" would be hard at work paying his taxes so that plenty of deputies are on staff to make sure anybody who doesn't take the blue pill is force medicated.
The worst-case scenario would have been a loss for Sullivan after at least one mistrial. Then he would have lost tens of thousands of dollars plus the county's legal fees which by then would easily add up to six figures. Sullivan didn't worry about the risk of that but was concerned about extending a bad chapter in his life which had already lasted way too long.
2nd Victory in 2 Years
This is the second time in the past two years that Sullivan has successfully settled an excessive force lawsuit in his favor which started with him "assaulting" a correctional officer. In 2021, he settled a lawsuit against the United States for $10,000 stemming from a 2015 beating he received at the hands of correctional officers while incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Victorville, California (https://copblaster.com/blast/34427/feds-agree-to-settle-usp-victorville-brutality-lawsuit).
In that case, Sullivan was minding his own business when a group of thugs ransacked his living quarters and stole his pens. When they refused to return the pens despite Sullivan informing them that their return was necessary to complete a court filing on time, they still didn't return them citing a ban on pens in the disciplinary housing unit, so Sullivan disciplined one of them with an elbow. Sullivan was subsequently found guilty of assault on staff at the institutional level after the disciplinary officer rejected Sullivan's argument that the officer deserved it for making it harder for him to file paperwork in a timely manner. Sullivan lost 20 days good time but was not prosecuted because the FBI in southern California has their hands tied with bigger things.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Danielson failed to get Sullivan's claims thrown out at summary judgment. Danielson argued a lack of video evidence and made a false claim that no reasonable juror could believe Sullivan over sworn federal officers. Judge Zipps noted "The videos do not clearly depict what occurred in the hallway outside of Sullivan's cell or in the observation room." She also noted, "much of that view is blocked when officers place a privacy screen across the entrance to the room" which is why Sullivan lacked video evidence before holding, "whether the jury will believe Sullivan or the officers is not a question properly determined by the Court on a motion for summary judgment." (See https://copblaster.com/uploads/files/summary-judgment-denied.pdf).
The best lesson Sullivan learned from his first case was how to plead his case properly to make sure it survived summary judgment.
Sullivan intends to look into writing a book about his experiences which he hopes other people can use to sue the government and win. He also hopes to entertain with his unique legal struggles and prison experiences. As part of this he intends to take a step back from his online activities and has already shut down most of his websites while scaling back promotion of his others.
Sullivan would like to thank Judge Zipps for presiding fairly over his cases, Juan Chavez for help at the settlement conference, Dr. Clive Segil for his expert opinion on Sullivan's horrendous healthcare, Dr. Wilson Hayes for his biomechanical analysis, and the defense team from his criminal case (Matt McHenry and Tiffany Harris) for hiring Dr. Hayes before getting him out of jail.
Any law officer who wrongfully injures Cyrus Sullivan should expect to lose a lawsuit. Sullivan's methods should serve as an example for anyone forced to choose between filing pro se and not filing at all.