Pubdate: Wed, 28 Jan 2009
Source: Capital Times, The  (WI)
Copyright: 2009 The Capital Times
Author: Kevin Murphy, Correspondent for The Capital Times
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Ben Masel)


An excessive force lawsuit brought against two University of 
Wisconsin-Madison police officers by marijuana activist Ben Masel, 
55, of Madison, ended Tuesday night in a hung jury.

After a two-day trial, the seven-person jury was unable to reach a 
unanimous verdict on whether Officers Mike Mansavage and John 
McCaughtry used more force than necessary when arresting Masel for 
trespassing at the Memorial Union in June 2006.

Masel had been soliciting signatures to get on the ballot for the 
U.S. Senate while on a sidewalk near the Memorial Terrace, an area 
not designated for such activity by UW policy. Masel refused to leave 
the area when requested by Memorial Union event managers who then 
called UW police to enforce the policy.

Masel alleged he was pepper sprayed and "brutally handcuffed," when 
arrested. He sued the officers alleging use of excessive force. He 
also sued the Memorial Union employees and the UW Board of Regents 
claiming their policy, which limits political activity of uninvited 
guests to the sidewalk in front of the union, infringed on his free 
speech rights and was unconstitutional.

District Judge John Shabaz dismissed Masel's constitutional claim, 
citing case law that allows public universities to restrict 
activities of uninvited guests on their property as long as the 
policy is applied equally to all individuals. Shabaz allowed the 
excessive force claim to go to trial.

District Judge Rudolph Randa, from the Eastern District of Wisconsin, 
tried the case replacing Shabaz, who retired to part-time status in 
December after being on medical leave since February.

Jurors deliberated about four hours Tuesday night before telling 
Randa they were unable to reach a verdict. Randa dismissed them. The 
case hasn't be rescheduled for trial.

Masel's attorney, Jeff Scott Olson, said he looks forward to retrying 
the excessive force claim and is considering an appeal of the 
dismissal of the free speech claim.

McCaughtry is still employed by UW Police, while Mansavage left last 
year and is presently employed as a police officer by the town of 
Madison, according to William Cosh, spokesman for Attorney General 
J.B. Van Hollen.
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