A jury was selected on May 14 for a two-week federal lawsuit trial against three Hernando County Sheriff’s Office deputies whom a Brooksville man said beat him so badly that his eyeball fell out of its socket, and then tried to cover it up.
- Incident occurred during Christmas party at Brooksville residence in 2009
- Michael Bratt arrested for battery on law enforcement officer, found not guilty in 2013
- Deputies had inconsistent stories about Bratt's injuries
"That's just what I hope, justice,” said the man’s relative, Elizabeth Sebesta. “I pray for their souls."
According to court records, the incident happened during a Christmas party at Michael Bratt and Marjorie Youmans's rural home near Brooksville in 2009. Deputies were responding to a noise complaint at about 1:30 a.m., and deputy Steven George jumped the fence that surrounded the home, instead of using the front gate call box to contact the couple.
George stated in a report that Bratt was angry and said the deputy was trespassing. Youmans was also yelling at the deputy, and according to the report Bratt shoved her back into the house.
George told Bratt he committed domestic battery and the men got into a struggle. The deputy claimed Bratt slammed his head into a coffee table and tried to use George’s taser against him.
George was eventually able to handcuff Bratt on the floor.
However, Bratt and Youmans tell a much different version of events. The couple said Bratt put out his arm to restrain Youmans, who was yelling at George. The deputy then screamed that a battery had taken place, tasered Bratt through the front door and fell face-first when he burst through.
George then radioed for backup, stating he was “down.” He was later treated for a broken nose.
According to the lawsuit, when deputies Louis Genovese and Kenneth Van Tassel arrived, Bratt was dragged outside in handcuffs and asked if he “liked beating up cops, or words to that effect.” That’s when the deputies beat Bratt, and the 300-pound-plus Genovese drove his knee into Bratt’s face, shattering his orbital bone and causing his right eye to fall into the cavity of his cheek. (Click HERE to view an image showing Bratt's injury. WARNING: The image is graphic.)
Bratt’s stepfather-in-law said prisoners of war have been treated better.
"Being in Vietnam, being a Vet for a long time, we never treated our prisoners that way,” said Mike Sebesta. “We never did anything like that. I just hope justice… comes to them because I don't think it's right."
Bratt was arrested for battery on a law enforcement officer, while Youmans was arrested for obstruction. The charge against Youmans was later dropped.
In 2013, a jury found Bratt not guilty of the battery on a law enforcement charge.
Bratt’s attorney said the deputies could not explain the injury to Bratt’s face and had inconsistent stories. The data on George’s taser also appeared corrupted.
The couple are seeking more than $10 million in damages from the three deputies.
Hernando County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Denise Moloney said Van Tassel has since resigned and left the area. George is still employed as a deputy, and Genovese has been promoted to sergeant.
Judge Charlene Honeywell has scheduled two weeks for the trial at the Tampa Federal Courthouse. Opening arguments in the case are expected to take place on Tuesday.