Lawsuit over Ill. deputy’s use of stun gun settled

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A federal lawsuit that accused a southern Illinois sheriff’s deputy of zapping three children with a stun gun at an emergency youth shelter and threatening to sodomize one of them has been settled for $750,000, according to court documents.

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) — A federal lawsuit that accused a southern Illinois sheriff’s deputy of zapping three children with a stun gun at an emergency youth shelter and threatening to sodomize one of them has been settled for $750,000, according to court documents. David Bowers and a fellow Jefferson County deputy who the lawsuit alleged watched Bowers’ misconduct at the center near Mount Vernon acknowledged no wrongdoing as part of the deal. One-third of the settlement’s payout — covered by the sheriff’s department’s insurer — will go toward attorneys’ fees. Bowers and fellow deputy Lonnie Lawler still work for the department, where their boss — Sheriff Roger Mulch — has defended their actions, insisting the law enforcers followed protocol and did "nothing out of the ordinary." Mulch also has noted that separate investigations by his department and Illinois State Police determined the deputies did nothing wrong. No criminal charges were ever filed. Mulch declined to comment on the matter Tuesday, citing the advice from his attorney. Bowers and Lawler do not have listed home telephone numbers and could not be reached by The Associated Press. Messages left with attorneys who pressed the lawsuit were not immediately returned. The lawsuit, filed in July of last year, accused Bowers and the other deputy of lashing out unprovoked in the incident at the Southern Thirty Adolescent Center that houses youths ages 11 to 18, often with behavioral issues. Calling the deputies’ actions "extreme, outrageous and unjustified," the lawsuit did not release the names or ages of the three boys shot with the stun gun. The fourth kid was a foster child who did not live at the center, according to the lawsuit. The suit claims that Bowers and Lawler went to the center on July 4, 2008, in response to a report that three teenagers were acting unruly. But the young people suing the deputies were not those disruptive children, the lawsuit said. Bowers allegedly pushed one boy toward his bed and repeatedly shocked him with a stun gun. Bowers then held down a second boy, stunned him several times and threatened to sodomize him, ultimately causing the child to soil himself, the lawsuit claimed. A third child complied with the deputies’ demands that he sit on a couch, but Lawler handcuffed him before Bowers zapped him repeatedly, the lawsuit said. The fourth child, a girl, pleaded with the deputies to stop but Lawler handcuffed her. Bowers lifted her off the ground, pressed her against a wall and choked her, the lawsuit alleged. "Do you want to live or die (expletive)?" the lawsuit claimed Bowers asked the girl before she was thrown into a closet, vomiting. Michael Bertrand, vice president and chief program officer of Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois, which runs the center, declined to comment Tuesday about the case or its resolution. The agency’s president and chief executive, Gene Svebakken, has said the victims were "young people often traumatized in their circumstances, and that they, like all children, needed to be treated with dignity and respect." Svebakken was vacationing Tuesday and unreachable. Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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