A federal jury awarded a city man $300,000 after finding he was beaten and blinded in his left eye by a city police officer following a 2004 motor vehicle stop.
The six-member jury found Officer Mark Martocchio, formerly known as Mark Guduaskas, liable for the injuries suffered by Abdus Shahid Muhammed, 45, formerly of Maple Street. The jury cleared Police Detective James Borrico of any wrongdoing.
The verdict returned Friday ended the three-day trial of a lawsuit brought on behalf of Muhammed by attorneys John R. Williams, of New Haven, and Charles L. Kurmay, of Stratford.
“This has been a long and hard fought victory for Mr. Muhammad. He has lost the sight in one eye, and had his skull fractured, being badly beaten six years ago,” Kurmay said. “He has fought for justice ever since. We are profoundly grateful to the jury who was able to determine the truth in this matter and hold the officer responsible.”
The city said it would appeal the verdict.
“Obviously, the City of Bridgeport is extremely disappointed by the verdict entered in this case. We remain adamant that both police officers involved adhered to their consistently high level of professionalism as they apprehended this suspect,” City Attorney Mark Anastasi said in a prepared statement. “The evidence does not support this verdict and we intend to file an appeal to correct what we believe to be a miscarriage of justice.”
During the trial, the jury heard evidence that the officers began following Muhammed’s car at about 9 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2004, and a chase ensued. Muhammed testified that as his vehicle entered the intersection of Grand Street and Housatonic Avenue, it was rammed by the police car. He claimed he got out of the vehicle, put his hands in the air and surrendered.
Muhammed claimed Martocchio struck him in the face with a police radio. He said he was struck and kicked several more times while it was suggested he knew where Osama bin Laden was.
The officers countered by saying Muhammed caused his own injuries when he jumped out of a moving car and fell face first onto a curb.
Muhammed was treated at Bridgeport Hospital for an irreparable macular hole in his left eye, a fractured eye socket, damage to his eye lid and contusions to his face, neck, back and torso.
“The key to the case was the testimony of our expert witness, Dr. Zachary Klett, who is the eye surgeon who performed the operation on our client,” said Williams. “He testified that the injuries, which were confined to the area surrounding the eye, were consistent with someone being struck by a police radio and absolutely inconsistent with someone who presumably jumped out of a moving car and struck his face on a curb.”
Williams said his client had no contusions to any other part of the face.
On May 7, 2004, Muhammed pleaded guilty in Superior Court to reckless driving, engaging police in pursuit and interfering with police. He was given a one-year jail sentence suspended after three months to two years probation, according to court records.
Meanwhile, Martocchio, a K-9 officer, is being sued by Kurmay in another federal excessive force case brought on behalf of Bryan Casio, of Stratford.
In that case, Kurmay claims Martocchio sicced his canine on Casio following a motor vehicle chase. Casio claims he had to undergo surgery on veins and arteries near his left armpit because of bites by the dog.