Man secretly recorded by former Akron cop files lawsuit

An Akron man is suing the city, former police officer Donald Schismenos and police captain Jesse Leeser, claiming the officers used excessive force, falsely arrested him and concealed evidence that proved his innocence.

On Monday, Edward B. Williams and his wife, Theresa, filed the lawsuit in Summit County Common Pleas Court asking to be awarded compensatory and punitive damages for physical injuries, mental anguish, emotional distress and damage to his reputation, stemming from an Oct. 2, 1996, traffic stop.

The Williamses contend that Leeser and Schismenos “tackled Williams to the ground, hit and kicked him, and used excessive force to unreasonably arrest him, including the use of a chokehold and Billie clubs.”

Akron Law Director Patricia Ambrose said she was unable to comment on the lawsuit because she has not reviewed it.

Leeser, who declined to comment through a police department spokesman, was promoted to captain on Monday — the same day the lawsuit was filed. He joined the department on Dec. 26, 1994.

Schismenos, who could not be reached for comment, was the subject of a series of Beacon Journal stories last year that were part of the newspaper’s investigation into his arrests and conduct as a police patrolman for 15 years. The investigation revealed that Schismenos, who resigned in 2013 (as part of a settlement negotiated between the city and the police union), had secretly recorded almost everything he did in the line of duty and stored the files on the police department’s computer system.

Reviews by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice resulted in no charges against Schismenos.

Last year, the city prosecutor dismissed 55 misdemeanor criminal cases and 42 traffic cases that resulted from arrests by Schismenos.

Earlier this year, assault charges were dropped against Williams, whose arrest was among the secretly recorded and concealed videos of Schismenos.

According to court documents, Williams became aware of the video in 2014, after the city released it to the Beacon Journal.

After seeing the video — which shows that Williams never struck, hit or assaulted Schismenos and Leeser, despite officers’ testimony to the contrary at his 1997 trial that ended in his conviction of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest — Williams filed a motion for a new trial.

On March 27 — the day Summit County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Teodosio granted Williams a new trial — the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office issued a statement, saying it would dismiss all charges in Williams’ case because the officer’s conduct “seriously questions any credibility” he would have as a state’s witness.

According to the lawsuit, Williams was driving to a hospital with his wife and their two children on Oct. 2, 1996, when he was stopped by Schismenos and Leeser near the corner of West Market and South Walnut streets for having a burned-out license plate light and an expired temporary tag.

The video, shot from the police cruiser’s dashboard with a microphone recording what was said, shows the officers appearing to doubt Williams when he says his 9-month-old baby is sick with asthma. Williams is then ordered out of his car.

At one point, the officers begin dragging Williams to the ground. He is then pepper-sprayed, punched and hit repeatedly with a police baton.

As Williams is being subdued, Schismenos can be heard saying: “You didn’t know who you were messing with, did you?”

Williams’ attorneys, William T. Whitaker and Andrea L. Whitaker, said it would be inappropriate for Williams to comment on the pending lawsuit. But Andrea Whitaker issued the following statement:

“In the process of being wrongfully arrested, Mr. Williams was kicked, punched and hit with police batons. The withholding of a video of the event by an Akron police officer, which showed that Mr. Williams did not resist arrest or assault anyone, resulted in his being wrongfully convicted. He suffered the loss of his job and other employment opportunities, he was injured and his family suffered as a result of the wrongful arrest and conviction. He has now been cleared of those criminal charges and this lawsuit has been filed to address the loss suffered by Mr. Williams and his family.”

Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or She can be followed at

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