MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (CN) - Sheriff's officers Maced a man in the eyes and roughed up his mother after they asked questions about a ticket for a loud muffler, the family claims in court.
Eileen and Matthew Markous sued the Morgan County Sheriff's Department and its Officers Seth Place and Richard Haynes, in Federal Court.
The mother and son say they went to the cop shop on Dec. 3, 2010, to ask about Matthew's ticket for a loud muffler.
They say they just wanted to know how the officers determine whether a muffler is too loud, and whether police have any discretion in enforcing their standards.
But the mom and son say the officers did not appreciate their "reasonable, peaceable, lawful inquiry of a taxpayers' servant."
Defendant Seth Place "became irate over the sheer audacity and temerity of an uppity citizen having the impudence to question his authority," the complaint states.
Place grabbed Eileen by the arm, injuring her, and tried to "physically usher her" out of the cop shop, then "threw her into a chair, causing her to strike the wall, and arrested her for 'battery on a police officer," according to the complaint.
Place claimed that Eileen "had contact with his hand," which gripped her as he tried to push her out of the station, and that that constituted assault, according to the complaint. She calls that accusation "malicious, retributive and vindictive."
Meanwhile Seth, who had stepped outside for a smoke, was told to go home and that his mother had been arrested.
"Understandably shocked and concerned that his mother, a middle-aged widow who had been, moments earlier, merely engaged in a conversation with Place over a simple traffic ticket, had been arrested, Mr. Markous requested an explanation from Place and Haynes over what had happened," the complaint states.
In response, Place beat him and Haynes Maced him in the eyes, Matthew says.
"Mr. Markous, blinded, began walking away. Haynes then jumped on Mr. Markous's back as Place repeatedly yelled that he was 'going to shoot!' Mr. Markous stopped walking and was then pushed over a motor vehicle and handcuffed."
Matthew too was charged with battery on a police officer - "an evident favorite that not," according to the complaint. That too was "malicious, retributive and vindictive," he says.
Mother and son were held in the cop shop, and "in response to their repeated pleas for medical attention" finally taken to a hospital, they say. Then they were taken back to jail and had to hire criminal counsel.
They claim that defendants Place and Haynes "fabricated and/or exaggerated the foregoing events in their written narratives of the same in order to procure judicial ratification of their conduct in arresting Mrs. Markous and Mr. Markous."
Matthew Markous stood trial in August and was acquitted.
The state then dropped the charges against Eileen Markous.
The Markouses seek punitive damages for civil rights violations, unlawful arrest, outrage, battery, malicious prosecution, conspiracy and defamation.
They are represented by Robert McCoid with McCamic, Sacco and McCoid, in Wheeling.