How could an unpaid $3 parking fee land a Big 10 university in federal court charged with civil rights violations?
An Indiana University graduate student’s story illustrates how.
Moses Baryoh Jr., who is Black, said he was tracked down by campus police officers, grabbed by the arm, knocked onto a car, handcuffed and arrested in September 2022.
The arrest happened after he had left the student recreation center‘s campus parking lot without paying the parking fee and drove home to his apartment.
Police located him there, and after some discussion and a tussle, took him to jail. Not for the parking debt, but for other, unknown charges that never were filed.
Baryoh lodged a federal complaint in U.S. District Court on June 9 alleging the officers were guilty of several civil rights violations against him, including unreasonable search and seizure, use of excessive force, false arrest and assault.
Defendants were Indiana University, the IU Board of Trustees and IUPD officers Austin Magness and Charlotte Watts.
The case was settled out of court on Sept. 5. Since participants agreed not to discuss its outcome, details are scarce.
And it’s difficult to determine if the lawsuit is related to the recent unexplained departure of the police chief on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus.
What happened? Jill Lees is no longer chief of police at IU-Bloomington
“Indiana University does not comment on personnel matters,” an IU media spokeswoman said when asked about Lees.
“Indiana University does not comment on pending litigation,” she responded when asked about the lawsuit, even though it’s been settled.
State laws that protect some personnel information make it difficult to confirm if the lawsuit is connected to the late August departure of IUPD Bloomington Chief Jill Lees.
The Herald-Times has filed a records request for publicly available employment information, but the university has not yet provided it. The H-T also is waiting for the university’s response as to whether the two officers were sanctioned after the incident.
Interim chief related to officer in lawsuit
The former chief’s absence was noticed the last week of August, when she was replaced by Brad Seifers.
Seifers is IUPD’s deputy superintendent and oversees law enforcement on IU’s seven campuses. He also is the father-in-law of Austin Magness, one of the IUPD officers the civil rights lawsuit was filed against.
Lees was described as the perfect person for the job when she was hired. “Her experience and forward-thinking leadership skills make her an outstanding fit for this important position,” an associate vice president for public safety said then.
Now, no one will discuss why Lees is gone. The H-T has not been able to reach her.
More about the lawsuit
A notice of settlement was filed in the case on Sept. 5: “On Sept. 1, 2023, after engaging in good faith settlement negotiations, the parties agreed to a settlement in principle to resolve the matter.”
Here’s what the lawsuit alleges happened on Sept. 7, 2022:
Baryoh, who was employed at IU’s Office of Sexual Violence Prevention and at the Banneker Community Center, had left work and gone to IU’s student recreation center to work out.
When he left and drove to the pay both at the exit, the attendant wouldn’t take the $5 bill Baryoh offered for the $3 parking fee. No cash accepted, just cards. The attendant said they could charge the fee to Baryoh’s bursar account, but it would be $13.50.
Baryoh didn’t want to pay $10 extra. Vehicles were backing up, so the attendant raised the stop arm and let Baryoh through, telling him to have someone bring a credit card to pay the $3.
Baryoh drove home. He figured the $13.50 was charged to his IU account. He didn’t know the parking attendant had called the police.
It wasn’t long before IU officers Austin Magness and Charlotte Watts were knocking at his door, announcing they were the police. He said he shouted back that he couldn’t hear them, that he was in the shower and unable to answer the door.
As they were getting into their patrol car, Watts spotted someone who matched Baryoh’s description — a tall young Black man — leave the apartment. They approached, shined a flashlight at him and asked if he was Moses, and if he knew why they were there.
Baryoh confirmed his name and said he didn’t know why they came to his home or why they needed to know his date of birth. When Magness asked him to sit down on a curb, Baryoh refused, saying he was going to stay where he was.
The two men were standing on opposite sides of the hood on a car parked in the apartment complex lot.
“Suddenly, defendant Magness quickly approached plaintiff (Baryoh) and grabbed and twisted his arm. Defendant Magness and defendant Watts then knocked plaintiff off balance and into a car and put handcuffs on him. Defendant Watts and defendant Magness then took plaintiff to jail and booked him in,” the lawsuit states.
Baryoh’s lawyer, Spenser G. Benge of Anderson, did not return a message seeking comment.
Contact H-T reporter Laura Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-318-5967.
This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: IU settles civil rights lawsuit that started with unpaid $3 parking fee
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