A former Cumberland County Jail inmate who said he was punched in the face by a guard last year has been paid $41,000 to settle a federal lawsuit against the county.

John Katula is no longer in custody at the Cumberland County Jail. He said in an interview and in court documents that he suffered a broken nose and needed surgery after the encounter. He filed his excessive force lawsuit in U.S. District Court of Portland last year. The parties filed a notice of settlement in December, and the case was dismissed in January. The county confirmed the settlement amount this week.

Officer Vinal Thompson has been out on administrative leave since the July incident. Sheriff Kevin Joyce requested a criminal investigation after he watched a surveillance video of the encounter, and a prosecutor is still reviewing the case.

The lawyer who represented Katula in the civil case declined an interview request for his client. But he said the man is “100 percent recuperated” from his injuries.

“He feels pleased,” attorney Michael Waxman said. “He’s satisfied by the resolution.”

The sheriff also said he could not speak about the lawsuit. He said the criminal investigation is ongoing, and an internal investigation will take place once that process is done. The county denied a public records request last year by the Portland Press Herald to release the surveillance footage publicly, citing an exemption for intelligence and investigative information that is not considered public.


“I’m very disappointed in what I saw,” Joyce said in July. “I’ll leave it at that.”

Attorney Peter Marchesi, who represented the county, provided the Portland Press Herald with a signed copy of the agreement but did not answer other questions about the case. That document shows the county, the sheriff and the guard denied any liability. County Manager Jim Gailey confirmed the amount of the settlement, which was paid entirely by an insurance provider.

Attorney John Wall, who represented Thompson, did not answer emails or calls about the settlement. A union representative also did not respond to an email. Thompson declined or did not respond to interview requests last year.

The sheriff provided basic details about the incident in a news release last July. He said the altercation took place at 8:20 a.m. on July 7 during the part of the day when inmates receive their medication under supervision. One inmate “started to create a disturbance.” Thompson approached the inmate and tried to handcuff him to remove him from the pod, but the inmate started to back up and held his hands up as if to refuse the handcuffs.

“Officer Thompson immediately began to punch the inmate in the face, and they both began to scuffle,” Joyce said in a news release.

The two went down to the floor and two steps to a lower level. Joyce said the inmate was not handcuffed during the struggle. Another guard intervened, and both the inmate and the guard went to the hospital for medical treatment. The news release identified Thompson but not Katula.

“I didn’t swing on him,” Katula, 45, said in an interview last year. “I didn’t do anything like that.”

Katula was held at the time on felony charges for trafficking, importing and possessing methamphetamine. His criminal case is still open, and his defense attorney in that case has not responded to messages about the lawsuit. Waxman, the civil attorney, said Katula is not currently in jail.

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