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March 12. 2013 10:04PM

Man injured in Manchester bar beating says 'It was me against the city'


MICKLOVICH 

MANCHESTER - The man beaten by off-duty Manchester police at a downtown bar said he settled the case for $200,000 over fears a judge would throw it out before it got to trial.

In an extended telephone interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Christopher Micklovich said most of the settlement was devoted to paying off medical bills, although he would not provide a dollar figure for his bills.

"I think I was afraid that if it went to court, the judge would have gotten it and would have thrown it out," Micklovich said.

Micklovich suffers nerve damage on one side of his face, he said. He sees double out of his left eye. And he suffers from post-traumatic stress.

He works in the manufacturing field but hasn't been able to find a work in his software-technology field because Manchester employers don't want to hire someone who has sued the city, he said. He said he started dating a woman, but she broke it off after her mother found his name in an on-line search.

On Tuesday, the New Hampshire Union Leader reported that the city paid Micklovich $200,000 last May to settle a federal lawsuit filed after his March 3, 2010, beating by four police officers outside the Strange Brew Tavern.

One of the four, veteran supervisor Lt. Ernie Goodno, retired shortly after the matter.

The president of the union that represents the remaining three police officers - Jonathan Duchesne, Matthew Jajuga and Michael Buckley - said it's unfortunate the city settled. Steven Maloney noted the New Hampshire attorney general cleared the three of any crimes in the matter, and an independent arbitrator found in their favor when they challenged a department suspension.

They actually won back pay and their personnel records were stripped of any mention of the matter, Maloney said.

"Our officers were actually looking forward to defending themselves in civilian court," said Steven Maloney. "They had just walked in (to Strange Brew). The last thing they wanted to do was arrest someone in the parking lot."

Time to move on

Mayor Ted Gatsas, who on Monday said he was unaware of the settlement, said Tuesday that it was approved in non-public session last May by the Human Resources and Insurance Committee.

"I think we need to move on; this was close to a year ago. Nobody likes paying out money, but sometimes you don't have a choice," Gatsas said.

Alderman at-large Joe Kelly Levasseur, a committee member, said he recalls only approving settlement parameters. He said committee members were never told the case was being settled.

"I think the city got a good deal," Levasseur said. "With a jury, if everything went their way, it (a judgment) would have been ridiculously high."

Micklovich said he would have liked to have seen Police Chief David Mara ask Duchesne, Jajuga and Buckley to resign. "It was an insult they got to stay on," he said.

Micklovich said he'd also like to sit down with Mara, whom he does not blame, and speak to him.

"Leave him in charge, let him address the issue of culture (in the department). Police don't suck; it's the culture (in the department)," Micklovich said.

Mara's administrative assistant directed questions about Micklovich to Gatsas and the city solicitor. Gatsas said he would not stand in the way of a meeting between Micklovich and Mara. The mayor said he assumes that Mara has changed some policies at the police department in light of the Strange Brew incident, but he referred a reporter to Mara for specifics.

Attorney general's report

In the attorney general's report, investigators said only one witness, a taxi driver, claimed Micklovich was kicked and punched while on the ground. The attorney general also said most witnesses disputed Micklovich's version of events.

Delaney wrote that Micklovich had consumed several drinks and was asked to leave after making an offensive ethnic slur to another patron. He made an aggressive step toward Strange Brew owner Mitch Sawaya.

But Micklovich disputed those events. Many who gave statements - police, bouncers and a corrections officer at the tavern - lied and collaborated on their stories, he said.

"It was me against the city," he said.

Raised in city

Micklovich said he was raised in Manchester, the oldest of four children, and attended Catholic schools for 12 years. His father was a civilian defense employee with a security clearance; his mother is a registered nurse who volunteers for missions in South America.

He had just returned from teaching English to children in the Dominican Republic when he went to the Strange Brew with three friends, two who are African-American, he said. He disputes making a slur, and said he remembers Sawaya escorting him to the door, then shoving him outside.

Sawaya shouted at him to leave, but Micklovich insisted his friends be brought outside, he said. The four officers walked outside, Sawaya turned his back and went inside, Micklovich said.

Micklovich said he remembers being shoved on the ground. When he regained consciousness, he heard laughter from police because his bladder had released, he said. Twice an officer slammed his head into a cruiser and told him to stop spitting blood on the car, Micklovich said.

Micklovich refused to go to the hospital to be treated and cleaned up, preferring that his bloody face be captured in a mug shot, he said.

Conflicting account

But Maloney said Micklovich was not punched repeatedly, and his injuries were the result of being forced to the pavement.

"His actions were what caused his injuries. If he had left the bar like he was told. If he hadn't lunged at the owner, none of this would have happened," Maloney said.

Micklovich said his lawyers convinced him not to press a suit against Strange Brew and Sawaya. A telephone call to Sawaya Tuesday evening was not returned.

"I hope to God," Micklovich said, "he never has to look at his son who went through what I went through. My dad could not look at me without crying."

mhayward@unionleader.com


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