Federal lawsuit against YPD will proceed

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A Youngstown woman’s lawsuit will go forward next month after a federal judge criticized the city for what she called a pattern of federal civil rights violations.

Desiree Johnson filed the lawsuit against the city in 2011. Johnson claims then-officer Kevin Mercer, Officer Patrick Mulligan and Officer Malik Mostella used excessive and unreasonable force while searching a 12-year-old African American boy in 2009. The boy in question is Johnson’s son, according to court documents.

In her opinion, U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson said the Youngstown Police Department’s internal affairs department was hasty, one-sided and incomplete. The judge was even more critical of her assessment when it came to the city’s investigation of complaints against Lt. Kevin Mercer, calling it alarming.

“There emerges a pattern of federal rights violations which appear to have been acquiesced to or tolerated by the city,” Pearson wrote.

The lawsuit was filed against the city, the officers and former police chief Jimmy Hughes.

Youngstown Police Chief Robin Lees said he stands by the internal affairs investigation. He would not go on camera for an interview, but did release a statement saying “we are always sensitive to the officers’ feelings and reactions to allegations of misconduct. Since the matter is in litigation, it would be inappropriate for us to comment any further.”

In 2012, Johnson was sentenced to 11 months in prison for assaulting officer Mercer and officer Mulligan during a traffic stop where she and another woman alleged that the officers beat them.

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