The plaintiffs, Anton Pike and Mark Ellison, are seeking punitive and compensatory damages resulting from the assault, which occurred on August 8, 2012. Howley was stationed out of the Brattleboro barracks at the time and was on duty when he arrived at Lake Raponda in Wilmington, and confronted Pike and Ellison, who had taken his canoe onto the lake without permission.
Howley proceeded to assault the two by slamming Pike’s face against the trunk of his cruiser three times, and pushing Ellison’s head into a rock. Howley resigned from the force on May 14, 2012, two days before assault charges were filed by the Vermont Attorney General’s office.
On August 1, attorney Devin McLaughlin, from Langrock, Sperry & Wool LLP, filed the civil suit, which claims Howley’s actions were “committed willfully, wantonly and maliciously and motivated by evil motive or intent.” The suit goes on to say Howley’s acts were recklessly, and/or callously, and/or deliberately indifferent to the plaintiffs’ rights under the United States Constitution.”
“Punitive damages are purely designed to punish the bad actor,” said McLaughlin. “For those damages to occur, actions need to rise to certain levels, and (Howley) had those bad intentions. It wasn’t a mistake, he acted intentionally.”
During the criminal case, Howley said that he did not remember the incident, and a clinical psychologist testified that amnesia was a common symptom in those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Howley was diagnosed with PTSD in 2006 and was ordered to continue his mental health treatment as a condition of his suspended sentence.
Howley’s attorney, Andrew Brooks, did not return a request for comment. However, in response to the suit, Brooks filed paperwork denying malicious intent, or that Howley’s actions were deliberately indifferent to the plaintiffs’ rights. Boxer also cites qualified immunity, unclean hands, and a violation of his client’s constitutional rights, as defenses.
According to Law.com, “unclean hands” is a legal term which says a party asking for a judgment cannot have the help of the court if he/she has done anything unethical in relation to the subject of the lawsuit.
Brooks also writes, the plaintiffs’ complaint, “to the extent that it seeks punitive or exemplary damages, violates (Howley’s) right to protection from excessive fines as provided in the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution, and Chapter II, Section 39, of the Constitution of the State of Vermont.
McLaughlin said he hopes both parties will work toward a resolution that is fair for his clients, before the case is given to a jury.