Hearing Officer Overturns Marshall Jail Death Suspensions

By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4)– Just two days after it was announced the city would pay $4.65 million to the family of Michael Marshall, there was a development with a previous disciplinary action.

A career service hearing officer ruled two Denver Sheriff Department deputies, who physically subdued Marshall at the Denver jail in 2015, did nothing wrong and reversed their suspensions.

michael marshall in denver jail video 5 Hearing Officer Overturns Marshall Jail Death Suspensions

Image from the Michael Marshall encounter (credit: Denver Sheriff Department)

The Manager of Safety’s office had given Deputy Bret Garegnani a 16-day suspension and Deputy Carlos Hernandez received a 10-day suspension for their conduct in the Marshall case. But Career Service Hearing Officer Bruce Plotkin overturned those suspensions in a Nov. 3 order, saying neither deputy used excessive force to subdue Marshall.

michael marshall in denver jail video 3 Hearing Officer Overturns Marshall Jail Death Suspensions

Image from the Michael Marshall encounter (credit: Denver Sheriff Department)

“The Agency’s evidence was not persuasive,” wrote Plotkin. “Both before and after Marshall became unconscious, Garegnani took measures that showed his concern for Marshall’s well- being. The Agency failed to establish that Garegnani’s use of force on Marshall was unreasonable and inappropriate under the circumstances. The same evidence indicates he used only the minimum degree of force to carry out his duty to control a combative inmate while protecting both the inmate and responders, including nursing staff.”

mug background12 Hearing Officer Overturns Marshall Jail Death Suspensions

Michael Marshall (credit: Denver Sheriff)

The City can now appeal Plotkin’s decision.

On Nov. 11, 2015, Marshall scuffled with deputies at the Downtown Detention Center. After the altercation, Marshall’s heart stopped beating but according to the order, Garegnani continued chest compressions for 16 minutes even though emergency medical technicians wanted to “call it.”

michael marshall in denver jail video 6 Hearing Officer Overturns Marshall Jail Death Suspensions

Image from the Michael Marshall encounter (credit: Denver Sheriff Department)

Marshall never regained consciousness and died nine days later.

An internal investigation followed resulting in a recommendation of no discipline. However, the Manager of Safety’s office assessed discipline and the deputies appealed.

A DSD use of force expert quoted in the opinion said he had “zero concerns about anything they did. I was expecting to see something different.”

Don Sisson, the attorney representing Garegnani and Hernandez, said he expects the City will appeal the hearing officer’s decision, which he called “well reasoned and consistent with the facts of the case. At the end of the day these two Denver deputy sheriffs were simply doing their jobs.”

Sisson went on to say the ruling should prompt the public to ask some hard questions.” The Denver taxpayers to some degree may want to ask the question,”Why are we paying any money out in a case where the Denver deputy sheriffs not only did their jobs, but the Denver use of force expert essentially said their actions were consistent with how they are trained to do their jobs.”

LINK: Career Service Hearing Opinion

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass has been with the station more than 30 years uncovering waste, fraud and corruption. Follow him on Twitter @Briancbs4.

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