top of page
  • Writer's pictureMike Burkons

This is NOT the 1st time. Twinsburg settled previous lawsuit alleging similar illegal conduct by Lt. Donato where the City also refused to provide the video they had of the incident.

When those in power know that they won't face discipline or be held to account if they get caught doing something illegal or corrupt, there is no deterrence and it shouldn't be a surprise if corruption continues.


It turns out that just a few years ago, the City settled a lawsuit for an undisclosed amount of money for very similar allegations of corruption made against Lt. Donato as some of the ones alleged in the recent lawsuit filed by the three Twinsburg Police Officers.


As you can read below, in this previous instance, and just like the current situation, the City refused to provide the video they had of the incident. However, once the judge demanded that they immediately turn over the video footage, the City went from denying the allegations and saying they had no merit, to quickly settling for an undisclosed amount, before the footage was made public and the existence of the lawsuit or it's settlement, was known by most of the public. From what I understand, no one faced consequences or was held to account for allegations of corruption in this lawsuit the City quietly settled.


All the details are explained in the email below I sent earlier today to the Twinsburg Law Director.


Sent: Friday, May 17, 2024 at 12:26:30 PM EDT

Subject: New Public Records Requests Lawsuit against Twinsburg


Law Director Vazzana,


This email contains the three new public records requests but first I need to provide some background information. 


I was searching to see if any other lawsuits have been filed against the City of Twinsburg for violating citizens’ constitutionally protected rights and came across Foust v. City of Twinsburg et al. (You can click here to download a copy of the complaint).


As you can see by reading this complaint, this instance where Lt. Donato tased the driver of the van who had his hands up and wasn’t resisting is NOT the first time he has been accused of illegal conduct when pulling someone over and violating their constitutional rights. Even more troubling is just like in this instance with the van driver, in the instance in question in the Foust v. City of Twinsburg lawsuit, the City also refused to provide the footage of the incident when requested. However, I will get into that in a moment but before I do, here is what you need to know about the allegations made in the lawsuit.  


In the complaint the Plaintiff, Mark Foust, alleges the following…


  • On Nov 15, 2016, Lt. Donato, a detective at that time, was conducting surveillance at Pebble Creek apartments in Twinsburg due to recent burglaries in the area.  On that day Mr. Foust was in his car attempting to leave the apartment complex parking lot when Lt. Donato stopped him, despite no suspicion that Mr. Foust had participated in any burglaries claiming “his behavior was consistent with a narcotics transaction”.

  • Mr. Foust stopped as ordered which proceeded Lt. Donato pointing his gun at him and ordering him out of his car.  

  • Fearing he might get shot, Mr. Foust slowly exited his car before Lt. Donato accosted him as he was restrained, unable to walk away, and was seized. Lt. Donato asked for his identification, which he provided and tried to explain that he was a college student who graduated from Twinsburg high school the year before, and was there to visit his cousin. Lt. Donato ignored Mr. Foust’s very reasonable explanation for why he was there.

  • Instead of stopping there and letting Mr. Foust leave, Lt. Donato proceeded to search Mr. Foust’s person without his permission and found absolutely no evidence on Mr. Foust that he had been involved in a drug transaction or burglaries.

  • Instead of stopping there and letting Mr. Foust leave, Lt. Donato then, and again without permission, began searching Mr. Foust’s car and personal belongings including his phone and backpack, and found nothing but Mr. Foust’s school books, and nothing consistent with him being involved in a drug transaction and/or burglaries.

  • Instead of stopping there and letting Mr. Foust leave, Lt. Donato called for backup and while waiting for them to arrive, illegally detained Mr. Foust telling him to sit on the curb and “don’t do anything stupid”. When officer Kreigar arrived, he asked if he had been searched and Lt. Donato replied, “Yes, but you can check him again.” and “shake his basketball shorts real good and if anything comes out it’s a felony because you said you have nothing on you.” Again, no drugs or contraband were found.

  • Instead of stopping there and letting Mr. Foust leave, he was ordered to pull his underwear out and show him his privates, forcing him to expose his penis and testicles right out on the street, and then illegally searched his car for a second time. Again, no drugs or contraband were found.

  • Instead of stopping there and letting Mr. Foust leave, Lt. Donato told Mr. Foust to follow him to the police station and took his wallet and phone to make sure he followed him. When Mr. Foust arrived at the Twinsburg Police Department, he was taken into an interrogation room and interrogated more about the burglaries. Now that no proof of a drug transaction was found, the Defendant Officers decided to accuse Mr. Foust of burglaries. Another person came into the interrogation room and told Foust that he was not under arrest and that he was free to leave, and then asked Defendant Donato if Mr. Foust had been read his rights.  Mr. Foust was never read his rights but was not free to leave as Lt. Donato was still in possession of Mr. Foust’s phone and wallet.

  • Instead of stopping there and letting Mr. Foust leave, he was then questioned about the burglaries and threatened with a polygraph test, made to unlock his phone where they searched his text messages and social media. After being detained for an unreasonable amount of time, 45 minutes, Mr. Foust had his phone returned to him and was told that he was finally free to leave and that there was no need for him “to go telling people what happened.”


Now let’s move on to how the City refused to provide all video footage of this incident. I don't expect anyone to believe me, so you can read the Judge’s reaction for yourself in this short 11 page transcript of the first case management conference (Click here to download the 11 page transcript).


As you can see by reading the transcript, on page 3, line 9, the judge asked, “Is there any video, any body cam, or any video at the police station?”. When the Judge learns there was and it was requested months ago but not provided, he asked, “So why is it that the police department didn't turn over the video of this incident immediately to counsel so that we could have a more meaningful discussion today? Because the video literally is something important enough that would shed a great deal of light on what occurred here and whether the plaintiff's account of what transpired is accurate, whether the defendant's account is accurate. So is there some reason why you don't have the video yet?”  


The City's law director responded and admitted there was video footage of the incident, admitted that the Plaintiff’s attorney made a public records request for it many months ago and before they filed the lawsuit, and admitted there wasn’t a good reason why they haven’t been provided beside “quite frankly, we just haven't gotten it to counsel where those have been turned over.”  


The judge rightfully took them to task and responded, “Tell you what we're going to do, counsel. You're going to pay the plaintiff's attorney fees and you're going to bring that video. You're going to turn it over to your counsel, and we're going to get that video here forthwith so that they can evaluate this case, so you can evaluate this case, so we all know what goes on in this case. With all due respect, it's really not appropriate, at least in my mind, to have the video, knowing you're facing a federal lawsuit, knowing that you have officers who are named, claims that are made, and you have some of the -- perhaps the best piece of evidence available, and here we are in February and you haven't turned it over to your counsel and you haven't turned it over to the plaintiff.”


Magically when the City realized that they would be forced to turn over this footage, they suddenly went from denying all the serious allegations in the lawsuit and then within 13 days of the judge demanding the City to turn over the requested footage, quicky agreed to settle the case for a yet to be disclosed amount of money, preventing the footage of the incident, as well as the existence of the lawsuit, to be seen or known by the public.  


This leads me to the following three public records requests…


  1. Please provide the settlement agreement from the lawsuit (Foust v. City of Twinsburg et al. Case number 5:17-cv-02350)  and/or all public records referencing the terms agreed to by the parties which led to the plaintiff to agree to dismiss the lawsuit.  The terms of the settlement were not included in the online case files and the public deserves to know how much this cost the city.

  2. Please provide the video footage requested by the plaintiff’s attorney in Foust v. City of Twinsburg et al. Case number 5:17-cv-02350, requested, which the city admitted in the case management conference that they had in their possession, but did not provide, which the judge ordered must be provided immediately to them in the Feb. 14, 2017 case management conference. The footage is a public record and the public deserves to see it for themselves.

  3. Please provide all public records that reference any discipline Lt. Donato received in regards to the conduct alleged in this lawsuit. The public deserves to know whether he was held to account for his conduct.


Thank you and please provide all requested records to Mburkons@aol.com.


Mike Burkons 

 


Comments


Recent Posts
Archive
bottom of page