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Jury fins two Milwaukee cops violated man's rights by strip searching him

MILWAUKEE (WTAQ) - A federal court jury ruled Thursday that two Milwaukee police officers violated a man's civil rights by searching him for no reason, and arresting him wrongfully.

The jury told officers Keith Garland Jr. and Michael Gasser to pay $506,000 to Leo Hardy, who was arrested outside his mother's house in March of 2012. A third officer, Michael Valuch Jr., was not found liable.

The ruling came after 5 hours of deliberations.

This week's trial was the first involving alleged illegal strip searches by Milwaukee Police. Over 60 people have sued police and city officials.

The jury said the officers did not have a reasonable suspicion that Hardy -- who was on probation for shoplifting -- had committed a new crime. Still, the 40-year-old Hardy was strip searched.

Jurors found that the actions of officers Garland and Gasser were either malicious, or recklessly disregarded Hardy's civil rights. $6,000 of the award compensates Hardy for his search and arrest -- and the other half-million was for punitive damages.

The city's attorney in the case did not comment on the ruling.

Hardy's lawyer Russell Ainsworth said the jury, in his words, "sent a message that no police officer can stop a man and put their hands on him simply because he is black in Milwaukee."

(Story courtesy of Wheeler News Service)