A Norwalk woman who told an officer she "couldn't hold her pee" struggled with authorities at the station after being charged with driving under the influence (DUI).
Mimi L. Lee, 34, of 18 Cline St., now is suing five Norwalk police officers and the city, accusing the officers of physically and emotionally abusing her during an arrest in May 2009. The federal lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo. It seeks $2 million in damages.
Lee had charges of DUI and an open container violation dismissed, but Norwalk Municipal Court Judge John Ridge fined her $200 for persistent disorderly conduct in late July 2009, according to court records. He suspended a 30-day jail sentence and placed Lee on two years of probation.
About 11 p.m. May 8, 2009, Sgt. Jim Montana (ranked as an officer at the time) was directed by a Fisher-Titus Medical Center nurse to Lee, who had urinated in the parking lot. Montana, in his report, said he stopped Lee in her vehicle in the Burger King parking lot after she left the hospital, "peeling the tires slightly."
"The driver exited the vehicle, leaving it running and lost her balance," Montana wrote.
The officer asked Lee why she couldn't wait to urinate.
"Mimi first said she was inside and couldn't hold her 'pee' and went into the parking lot to pee. She said she is on medication which keeps her from being able to hold her pee," Montana wrote.
Lee, in the lawsuit, filed by Avon Lake attorney Daniel Wightman, says a lung infection and related medication are blamed for her difficulty in controlling her urine.
Montana had Lee perform several sobriety tests. After charging Lee with DUI, he and Officer Chris Hipp walked her over to Montana's cruiser.
"She stopped and refused to get inside. I tried to shift her weight and move her to the car, but she pushed back into me refused to get in the car," Montana wrote.
"I grabbed her by the handcuffs and Mimi began screaming and yelling and trying to pull away from us. While pushing back and forth with Mimi, we forced her to the ground to calm her down. Once she calmed down, she agreed to get in the car," he said.
There was another scuffle with Montana later at the station.
Montana is accused in the lawsuit of using excessive force by over-tightening the handcuffs and forcing Lee into the cruiser. She says she suffered wrist injuries.
At the station, Lee said she got up to use the bathroom during a 23-minute observation period prior to a breath test and Officer Chris Hipp "blocked" her from the bathroom while "Montana viscously (sic) assaulted her from behind," the lawsuit states.
"She tried pushing past Officer Hipp and was asked several times to sit down. She again tried to push past Officer Hipp when I grabbed her by the sleeves of her shirt and told her to sit down. Mimi got violently irate and tried to push me off of her and turned around," Montana wrote in his report.
Norwalk Law Director Stuart O'Hara released a video of the incident Friday.
Montana is seen quickly taking Lee down after she turned toward him aggressively. Other officers enter the room and Lee is placed face-down on the floor.
"I told Sgt. (Thomas) Cook to pepper-spray her and it was 'shown' to her, but was not used. Mimi agreed to cooperate, but she was handcuffed for safety reasons," Montana wrote.
The lawsuit states Montana threw Lee onto the table and "choked her with his forearm" before she was "slammed" onto the floor. She was re-handcuffed, again allegedly with excessive force and over-tightening.
As a result of this alleged assault, the suit states, Lee sustained permanent injury to her wrists, which resulted in surgery. See also suffered "great pain and suffering."
Montana, Hipp, Cook, then-Capt. David Light (who is now police chief) and an unidentified police officer referred to as "John Doe No. 1" are all named as defendants in the lawsuit, as is the city of Norwalk.
Lee's husband, Richard, also is a plaintiff. He suffered "mental anguish and lost the society, comfort and companionship of his wife."
The lawsuit seeks $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages from Montana, Hipp, Cook and "Defendant Police Chief Dennis (sic) Light" individually, as well as attorney fees and court costs.
In an unrelated case, Lee made headlines when she was accused of driving under the influence of alcohol in a rollover wreck at 4:08 p.m. Oct. 21, 2009. Lee's three children, who were ages 2, 4 and 6 at the time, were in the SUV, but not injured. Lee refused treatment for possible injuries at the scene and refused sobriety test.
The case went to trial two months later, but a Norwalk Municipal Court jury was unable to come up with a verdict on charges of DUI, DUI refusal and endangering children.
The case was scheduled to be retried in March 2010. However, prosecutors dropped the case, citing new evidence that countered what troopers said. Based on the evidence available, Ridge ruled Lee was guilty of reckless operation and failure to control. She was fined $150.