Sheriff’s deputy on leave after potential role in St. Albans brutality case surfaces

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Former St. Albans Police officer Jason Lawton and an unidentified officer during the arrest of Amy Connelly in March

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has placed a newly hired deputy on administrative leave after it learned of his “potential involvement” in the case of a woman punched in the face by a St. Albans police officer.

In a press release Thursday, the sheriff’s office said it contacted the St. Albans Police Department during the process of hiring Michael Ferguson to find out why he was no longer employed by the department.

The statement said that it was not informed that Ferguson, who was hired July 29, was involved in the arrest of Amy Connelly, a 35-year-old woman who was taken into custody in March after causing a ruckus at a local bar.

Police body-cam video released Tuesday shows former St. Albans officer Jason Lawton punching the 35-year-old Highgate woman, who was seated and in handcuffs. The video shows several officers standing by as Lawton throws an uppercut to Connelly’s face, then slams her to the floor headfirst.

Several officers were involved in the March arrest of Amy Connelly, who was punched in the face while in the custody of St. Albans police.

The sheriff’s office said it did not learn of Ferguson’s possible involvement in the incident until Wednesday, when Seven Days reported that Ferguson quit the force quit one day after St. Albans Police Chief Gary Taylor ordered an investigation of the incident.

Lawton, who was with the department for 7 years, was relieved of duty and placed on administrative leave June 12 once the allegations were substantiated, Taylor said. He was fired July 1.

Seven Days quoted Taylor saying that Ferguson and Officer Zachary Koch “fell down in their responsibility” to step in. Koch’s actions are the subject of an ongoing investigation expected to wrap up this week.

Connelly’s attorney said she suffered “horrendous” injury in the assault.

Amy Connelly after her arrest in March

“I would hope that we would intervene, but even in cases where intervention doesn’t occur, I would expect an immediate notification or referral,” Taylor told the newspaper.

Taylor said in a statement Tuesday that he didn’t learn of the assault on Connelly until he reviewed the case file after the ACLU requested the body-cam footage.

 

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