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All shall be equal before the law: Justice graffiti in Cape Town, South Africa.EXPAND
All shall be equal before the law: Justice graffiti in Cape Town, South Africa.

Father Sues After Prosecutors Failed to Charge Guard Who Beat His Teenage Son

On February 12, 2017, Darell Bryant tossed a 14-year-old boy to the ground and punched him in the face, breaking his nose. Video footage obtained by the Miami Herald as part of an exposé on guards in Florida's juvenile detention facilities stoking violence among the incarcerated children shows Bryant slamming the 120-pound kid against a wall, then hurling him to the ground and pummeling him in the face.

Broward County prosecutors decided the violence was justified, labeling the teen "aggressive" and claiming the force was necessary to "gain compliance." Yet after Bryant slammed the child, whose initials are A.O., against a wall, the child didn't struggle while being thrown to the ground.

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Bryant "grabbed the skinny 14-year-old A.O. by his shirt and thrusted him into a wall of the Broward Regional Juvenile Detention Center cafeteria. A.O.remained pinned to the wall for about seven seconds, with Officer Bryant holding him there," a lawsuit filed by the family last week in federal court states. "Bryant clutched the boy's arm and tossed him onto his back using excessive force. As A.O. lied on his back, Bryant negligently caused injury to A.O.'s face, breaking his nose in two places."

The teenager was in the Broward Juvenile Detention Center, charged with taking a joyride in his father's car in January 2017. While the Broward State Attorney's Office declined to press charges against Bryant for breaking the boy's nose and sending him to the hospital, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice termed Bryant's use of force excessive. Bryant "resigned in lieu of termination on February 14, 2017," a DJJ spokesperson said.

This past November 27, the boy's father, Uri Ostrovsky, sued the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and Darell Bryant in Florida's Southern District Court. Ostrovsky's attorney, Martin Sperry, alleges Bryant and DJJ were negligent in their actions against the teen and that both Bryant and DJJ violated the boy's constitutional rights to be free from physical abuse and intimidation and free from cruel and unusual punishment.

"This is very wrong," Ostrovsky told New Times. "If it happened to my son, it can happen to others too. He has a trauma for the rest of his life."

Bryant's lawyer, Ralph McGrath, did not respond to emails seeking comment. A DJJ spokesperson said in a statement emailed to New Times, "We cannot comment on pending litigation. DJJ does not condone nor tolerate this type of behavior and all youth are to be treated with respect and dignity while under the care or custody of this agency,"

As the Miami Herald reported earlier this year, the teen had told DJJ investigators that he had previously informed Bryant another teen in the facility "kept talking junk to him." Bryant suggested the boy should "hit [the] youth when no one was looking." Video footage obtained by the Herald shows the boy striking out at another teen, though the punch doesn't land and the other teen seems unfazed. That is when Bryant tackles the 14-year-old. The teen was one of many detained children who told investigators and the Herald that corrections officers often tried to get the children to fight each other by promising rewards like hamburgers or honey buns.

"Bryant psychologically coerced A.O. by telling him to hit the other youth when no one [was] looking. A.O. complied by throwing a futile jab, and the alleged excessive force incident commenced," the lawsuit states.
Bryant and DJJ's actions "were committed with reckless or callous indifference to the Plaintiff's federally protected rights" and "misused the power possessed by the virtue of state law," the lawsuit says. The boy and his father are seeking damages that exceed $15,000 for pain, suffering, and medical expenses.

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