Maui Time publisher sues, alleges assault in incident

The publisher of an alternative weekly newspaper is suing Maui County, alleging he was harassed, assaulted and falsely arrested while filming Duane “Dog” Chapman for a story in 2011.

The lawsuit filed this month by Tommy Russo, Maui Time publisher, in U.S. District Court in Honolulu also names Police Chief Gary Yabuta and Wailuku patrol officer Nelson Johnson as defendants.

According to the lawsuit, Russo was using his cellphone to film Chapman on April 12, 2011, and called 911 after Chapman’s security guards pushed Russo, grabbed his phone and jabbed him in the mouth.

After a security guard tossed the phone on the hood of a car, Russo used it to film when police cars entered the Wailuku municipal parking lot. The lawsuit alleges that Johnson, who was among officers arriving, told Russo he was antagonizing Chapman’s group and charged and hit Russo. Johnson grabbed Russo’s phone before returning it and grabbed Russo’s arm, twisted it and put it behind Russo’s back, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Wailuku attorney Sam MacRoberts is representing Russo.

The Maui County Corporation Counsel’s office declined comment on the lawsuit.