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Lawsuit settled for $15,000 over beating of Erie County inmate

Except for Marquez Mack and the six Erie County sheriff’s deputies accused of roughing him up, no one knows for sure what happened that January night five years ago.

Mack, who was handcuffed and on his way back to the Holding Center, says deputies punched and kicked him and slammed his head against the wall.

Sheriff’s deputies say Mack was unruly and uncooperative.

The high-profile lawsuit that grew out of the 2010 altercation and the ensuing legal fight over a courthouse video that the county tried to keep secret ended when Mack accepted a $15,000 settlement.

Mack’s lawyers said they could not comment because of confidentiality restrictions, but a top county official confirmed its details.

“The Marquez Mack settlement was made without the admission of liability of any party,” County Attorney Michael A. Siragusa said. “I believe the settlement was a fair and just result.”

Siragusa said the county agreed to settle the case in order to avoid the cost and uncertainty of a continuing lawsuit.

The settlement ends a 2011 federal court complaint against Sheriff Timothy B. Howard and the six deputies accused of beating Mack, who was facing a robbery charge. At the core of the suit was the allegation that Mack was pushed into a courthouse holding cell and then kicked, punched and slammed into a wall.

A security camera recorded much of the incident and, for more than a year, the county fought Mack’s efforts to make the video public. A state appeals court ruled against Howard and, citing the state’s Freedom of Information Law, ordered him to turn over a copy of the security footage.

The video shows two deputies escorting a handcuffed Mack into the cell, pushing him against the wall several times and, with the help of four other deputies who eventually arrived on the scene, wrestling him to the ground.

As the federal judge handling Mack’s civil suit later noted, there are significant sections of the video where Mack’s body is obscured by the deputies, making it difficult “to tell what, if anything, is happening.”

“While, as the defendants note, the video does not show the all-out melee that the plaintiff describes in his deposition testimony, neither does it completely contradict his side of the story,” said U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.

Arcara rejected the defense’s “spin on the facts” – the county contended that the video supported its motion to dismiss the case – and ruled that it was not strong enough evidence to keep the case from going to a jury.