A federal judge in Chicago recently found in favor of two DeKalb County deputy sheriffs accused of using excessive force on a jail inmate during a cell extraction. Nerak Scaife was a pretrial detainee at the DeKalb County Jail. He was told by correctional officers that he was being transferred to another county due to overcrowding at the DeKalb Jail. Scaife, however, would have nothing of it, and he stripped naked, sat on the floor of his cell, and wrapped his arms and legs around the cell door preventing it from being opened. He also wrapped a shirt around his head because he believed officers may use pepper spray on him. One deputy pulled the shirt off his head and tried prying Scaife’s hands and feet from the bars and kicked at his shins and feet, but this did not work. Another deputy sprayed pepper spray toward his face, but Scaife dropped his head to avoid contact with his face. He then claimed the deputy sprayed pepper spray again, this time at his genitals, which the deputy denied doing. The deputies were finally able to remove Scaife from the cell. He did not sustain any residual effects from the pepper spray or any physical injuries from the use of force.
Scaife filed a federal civil rights lawsuit for money damages against the two deputies. On November 4, 2019, U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly granted the deputies’ motion for summary judgment. Judge Kennelly found that Scaife actively resisted the deputies’ efforts to extract him from his cell, and the first deputy’s acted reasonably in attempting to pry Scaife’s fingers and hands from the cell bars, and in kicking and hitting at his hands and feet. With respect to the second deputy, the court found that she was entitled to qualified immunity from suit because her use of pepper spray, even assuming for the sake of the motion that it was applied intentionally to Scaife’s genitals, did not violate clearly established law. The DeKalb Deputies were represented by HCB attorneys Mike Bersani and Tony Fioretti.