No jail time for Cleveland cop who stomped driver’s head

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A judge on Monday spared a former East Cleveland police officer jail time after the patrolman admitted to stomping on a man’s head and shocking him with a Taser while he was lying on the ground.

Nicholas Foti, 39, must spend 18 months on probation and complete 100 hours of community service in East Cleveland, where he spent seven years as a police officer.

Foti pleaded guilty Nov. 27 to assaulting the victim and violating his civil rights, both misdemeanors. He also agreed to forfeit his license to become a police officer.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Andrew Santoli announced the sentence after the man who was assaulted asked for Foti to spend some time in jail.

“He treated me like I wasn’t a person,” said the victim, who asked to not be identified. “Since he wants to break the law and do things wrong, let him see what it feels like.”

The man spoke in a jail jumpsuit and handcuffs because he pleaded guilty to felonious assault last week in an unrelated case.

Foti did not apologize for assaulting the 40-year-old man who led police on a short, low-speed chase over a traffic violation. Instead, he read from a pre-written statement in which he said the man’s actions “made me assume the worst on why he was not stopping his vehicle.”

Foti also said he was saddened to learn that the man has a history of mental health issues that complicated his relationship with police and that things might have turned out differently if Foti had encountered him outside of a police pursuit.

“I would have been the first to help him,” Foti said.

Foti is the third of 18 former East Cleveland officers charged in the investigation to be sentenced.

The assault came on April 1, 2020, after Foti and other officers tried to pull the man over after someone reported a car matching his description drove up on a sidewalk. The man initially pulled over. He said that he drove away from the stop out of fear after Foti and other officers ran up to his car with their guns drawn.

He eventually stopped again, and officers ran up to the car and smashed his window with batons. He then drove off again.

Officers eventually put spikes in the road to stop his car. When the car finally stopped, two officers ran up to the car and wrestled the man out and threw him onto the ground. Four other officers held him down when Foti ran up and shocked him in the back with Taser. Foti then went around the scrum and stomped on the man twice — first on his neck, then on the back of his head.

Multiple other officers who were there told investigators that they believed the force was excessive and could have seriously injured the man.

Officers found no guns or drugs in the man’s car. He eventually pleaded guilty to a speeding violation and driving on an expired license.

Foti did not file a report that he used force, and the department did not learn of the incident for over a year.

Foti was previously disciplined for not reporting that he shocked a man with a Taser while arresting him on a warrant.

The man has filed a federal lawsuit against East Cleveland, Foti and other officers who arrested him.

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Greg Mussman said that the man had always been honest with prosecutors. The victim said it was wrong not to stop for police.

“Force like this is not only unnecessary, it’s dangerous,” Mussman said.

Foti’s attorney, William Norman, said that the officers believed they were in danger because people don’t usually run from people out of fear for their personal safety.

“They’re fleeing the police because they’ve done something wrong,“ Norman said.

Norman said that Foti wanted so badly to be a cop that he kept re-enrolling in a police academy after he failed to graduate twice.

“For some people, serving the community is something that’s in your blood,” Norman said.