PORTLAND — A jury awarded $150,000 to a convicted drug dealer who sued an Auburn police officer for excessive force after a police dog bit the man on the knee during his arrest.

Romelly Dastinot, who lived in Lewiston eight years ago, lodged a civil complaint in federal court against three Auburn police officers stemming from his 2014 arrest outside an Auburn club.

After deliberating for less than four hours at the conclusion of a four-day trial, a jury reached verdicts Friday evening against three Auburn police officers who were accused of excessive force and unlawful arrest.

The jury found that Officer Mark Lemos had unlawfully stopped or seized Dastinot on the night of Feb. 14, 2014, outside the Naral Club in Auburn, but that Lemos hadn’t used excessive force against Dastinot when he deployed his Taser.

Dastinot hadn’t proved that he was entitled to compensatory damages from Lemos and awarded Dastinot $1 in nominal damages.

The jury ruled that Dastinot hadn’t proved his case against Auburn Lt. Scott Watkins for unlawful arrest, nor had he proved Watkins had arrested him in retaliation for use of protected speech. Also, Watkins hadn’t used excessive force against Dastinot that night, the jury found by a preponderance of evidence, which is the standard of proof required in a civil court proceeding.


Dastinot did prove that Officer Tyler Ham had used excessive force against him and that Dastinot was entitled to compensatory damages totaling $150,000, according to court documents.

According to Dastinot’s 10-page complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in 2018, he had been waiting for a taxi outside the Auburn club when he was accosted by Watkins, who questioned Dastinot and his friends about why they were outside the club.

Dastinot wrote that when he explained that they were waiting for their cab Watkins used excessive for in arresting him.

Dastinot wrote that Officer Lemos used a Taser on Dastinot after he asked why he was being arrested, according to his complaint.

While he was subdued and on the ground, Officer Tyler Ham instructed a police dog to attack Dastinot, biting him in the leg, he wrote in his complaint.

Dastinot was taken to a hospital with “serious” leg injuries, he wrote.


He claimed his constitutional rights had been violated.

Dastinot wrote he suffered physical and emotional scars from the incident.

He had been seeking $250,000 in compensatory damages and that same amount in punitive damages from each of the officers involved.

Dastinot had represented himself at the outset of his lawsuit, but a judge appointed two attorneys to represent him without pay after Dastinot informed the judge he was indigent and had been assisted earlier by someone who was no longer available to help him with his case.

A jury trial was held last week.

Dastinot had been indicted in connection with the incident on charges of assault on an officer, refusing to submit to arrest and disorderly conduct.


Three months later, he was arrested as part of a multi-agency drug sweep in the Lewiston area and in Massachusetts after months of investigation that ultimately netted more than a dozen people accused of being conspirators, police said.

Dastinot, who was 35 years old at that time, was identified as the ringleader of a Lewiston drug trafficking ring that purchased heroin, crack cocaine, oxycodone pills and other drugs in Massachusetts to sell in Maine.

He was eventually sentenced to serve 14 years in federal prison.

Investigators had used phone taps, surveillance and undercover work to learn that Dastinot and his co-defendants had been transporting drugs from Massachusetts and elsewhere back to the Lewiston area to sell throughout Androscoggin County, court records showed.

Dastinot, also known by the street name Marcus, pleaded guilty in federal court to a charge of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin, crack cocaine and oxycodone.

He is serving a sentence in federal prison.

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