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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mediation is the next step for a federal lawsuit that alleges a former Missouri police officer nearly killed a teenager with a stun gun during a 2014 traffic stop.
Online court records show Bryce Masters’ lawsuit was filed against the city of Independence, its former police chief and the former officer who fired the stun gun, Timothy Runnels. A mediator is set to hear the case Aug. 9. Barring a settlement, the case is set for trial in October 2018.
Masters was 17 at the time of the September 2014 confrontation with Runnels. Witnesses have testified that Masters went into cardiac arrest when Runnels shot him in the chest with a Taser after Masters refused to get out of his car.
The lawsuit alleges Masters’ heart had stopped for more than seven minutes by the time an ambulance arrived. No one had tried resuscitating him, and he was revived using a heart defibrillator.
Video from Runnel’s patrol car shows Runnels using the stun gun on Masters and, after Masters went limp from the electrical charges, handcuffing him and dragging him to the curb, where he dropped Masters on the pavement face-down.
“You don’t like to play by the rules, do you?” the lawsuit quotes Runnels as telling the unresponsive Masters, whose teeth were broken when they hit the pavement.
Runnels, in his response to the lawsuit, admitted making that comment and shooting Masters with the stun gun after he resisted efforts to pull him out of the vehicle.
Runnels pleaded guilty to violating Masters’ civil rights and apologized in court to Masters, saying he never meant to harm him. Runnels was sentenced in June 2016 to four years in federal prison.
According to prosecutors in the criminal case, Runnels “continuously” shocked Masters with his stun gun while Masters was on the ground and unthreatening, then submitted a misleading police report that omitted or falsely described the amount of force he used.
Runnels also tried to hinder the police department’s investigation of the matter, prosecutors alleged.
Nevada homeowners facing financial difficulties can once again take advantage of a foreclosure prevention lifeline offered by the state.
The foreclosure mediation program allows homeowners to sit down with lenders and discuss alternatives to foreclosure. But interested Nevada residents will have to act quickly in order to qualify for the program.
"It gives homeowners who are behind in their mortgage payments and facing foreclosure a respite as well as a chance to meet with the bank in order to restructure their mortgages and avoid losing their homes," Geoff Giles, a Reno real estate lawyer, told the Reno Gazette-Journal ( http://on.rgj.com/2t6yXpi) .
A measure signed into law earlier this year closed a gap of several months during which homeowners had few options to help them save their house.
The new law allows homeowners to choose to participate in mediation within 30 days of being served a notice of default. However, residents who got their notice after December and before the legislative measure was signed into law have until Tuesday to file mediation paperwork with the appropriate district court.
Having to file the petition in district court is one of the changes the program is seeing under the new law.
Another change is the mediator's fee, which increased by $100 to $500. Homeowners and lenders will split the fee in half.
Over the last few months, I have received phone calls from potential clients who used the phrase ‘My soon to be Ex-Wife or Ex Husband. I am then asked about the mediation and can I help with the process. I very much enjoy what I do in helping couples through this process.
Some cases are generally easier to get through, and some are more difficult depending on the couple and the issues. Either way, the issues are important to the parties, and they want a resolution that works so that a win-win result is achieved.
That is where I come in. As a mediator, I act as a neutral third party in helping the couple come to an agreement on all the issues that need to be decided, but more importantly, the issues that are important to them.
Nobody knows what is best for their children than mom and dad or what is best for assets and financial issues and moving forward than the parties in the divorce action. Why have a judge or an attorney told you what to do? Couples are much more likely to abide by an agreement and terms they want to be immortalized rather than being told what to do.
There is a high percentage of people who do not even know that the option of mediation exists. They are provided false information and advised to fight for what they are entitled to by hiring an attorney, which then results in the other spouse also hiring an attorney all the while watching your bank account balances go lower and lower, the months and years going by, while at the same time losing your sanity as well.
Please note that there are some cases that require attorneys and the litigation process. However, you owe it to yourself to become educated so that you can make a decision based on having all the proper information at your disposal.
Couples who decide they want to get divorced or separated should not be discouraged to get this done because they cannot afford it. Who wants to be in a relationship under those circumstances?
Here at Creative Resolutions Group, we offer a FREE (no obligation) in-office consultation. In addition, we offer the most affordable pricing packages which include all court filing fees and disbursements, so there are no surprises at the end. Isn’t it better to know what you are going to spend instead of being told: “IT DEPENDS”?
WASHINGTON—Psychologist Diane Medved has written a book whose title shouts out a command: “Don’t Divorce!”
That’s because most divorces end up doing a lot more damage than people expect and don’t often bring the solutions, peace and comfort they hope for.
One stunning fact that should give any couple pause: research shows that if troubled spouses will just gut it out and stick together through the tough times, a few years down the road, three-fourths of them reveal their marriages have become happy. Three-Fourths.
Medved stated there’s been a sea-change that’s led to a divorce culture. America’s gone from the World War Two era “Do Your Duty” generation to “Do Your Own Thing” Baby-Boomer, Generation X and Millennial generations. People have become such consumers, that they believe their happiness and satisfaction with a product – even if that product is a spouse – matters more than anything else.
We also now live in a PC culture where everyone feels its verboten to judge anyone, so few people are willing to tell their friends or loved ones, “Don’t Divorce! You’re going to do a lot of damage to a lot of people.”
Good for the Kids? Don't Believe It
Medved states this is especially true of children. They aren’t as resilient as divorcing couples want to believe. Their splitting can cause deep trauma for their children, steal the kids' innocence and leave them more likely to divorce themselves, or even fear to wed because they feel so unsure their marriage will last.
And nowadays there’s even a whole divorce industry that’s grown up that pushes troubled spouses to give up their marriage because there’s a lot of money to be made when they do split up.
But Medved’s book is filled with many ways husbands and wives can work out their differences, change their attitudes and gain skills to make their marriage thrive.
In fact, the sub-title of “Don’t Divorce” is “Powerful Arguments for Saving and Revitalizing Your Marriage.”
It's Not a Consumer Product, It's a Family Project
Medved knows from her own life how to keep a marriage strong as she’s been married for three decades to nationally-syndicated radio talk show host Michael Medved.
The psychologist recommends people look at marriage more as a lifelong “family project” rather than a relationship based on feelings. Feelings will morph and change, but a vow and commitment can be a rock-solid foundation on which to build a lifetime together.
Verise Campbell was excited. She could finally help struggling homeowners negotiate deals with their lenders to avoid foreclosure, but the angry response to her first phone call shocked her.
"There will be no mediation! There will be no mediation! There will be no mediation!" she recalls the representative of the lender shouting.
"And then he took the phone, and he struck something hard three times," said Campbell, who is deputy director of Nevada's mediation program.
It was 2009, the financial crisis was roiling the world economy and Nevada had just started the program to try to stem the flood of people losing their homes in one of the states hardest hit by the housing collapse.
The program was a big change in the way the state handled foreclosures, and critics slammed it as a tactic to postpone them while giving homeowners a free ride in the meantime. But advocates now cite Nevada as a model, and mediation is used in more than 20 states.
The aim: to put borrowers, lenders and an impartial third party in the same room to negotiate a way to help owners keep their homes - or get out of them as painlessly as possible.
"Of all the legislation that I've seen pass, it seems to be the most effective in actually reducing foreclosures for a longer period of time," said Daren Blomquist, vice president of online foreclosure property marketplace RealtyTrac.
The U.S. housing market is showing signs of stabilization six years after home prices peaked, but the foreclosure crisis could be only halfway through.
About 1.4 million homes were at some stage of foreclosure in May, according to data provider CoreLogic, and 1.6 million more households were behind on payments at the start of 2012.
Not only do steeply discounted foreclosure sales weigh on home prices, but the process can drag on for more than two years in some states due to backlogged courts, allegations of improper documentation and sheer volume.
Some observers say the housing market would heal faster by clearing out pending foreclosure cases as quickly as possible, even if it means evicting millions of families.
Others, however, say that kind of pain is avoidable and expect mediation to increase.
"People are seeing that you can actually get good modifications from these conferences," said Geoff Walsh, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center in Boston.
The face-to-face sessions are also a way to assess a homeowner's eligibility for government assistance, such as the federal Home Affordable Modification Program.
About 14 states and the District of Columbia now have mediation programs, as do cities and counties in other states. Paying for them are government money, fees from lenders and sometimes borrowers, or a combination of funding and fees.
Data on their effectiveness is patchy, but figures from some programs suggest they help some people to lower their monthly payments, allowing them to keep their homes and avoid defaulting again.
Of the 12,805 mediations completed in Connecticut from July 2008 through December 2011, more than half resulted in a loan modification. Two-thirds of owners in the program were able to stay in their homes, according to state data.
Another 15 percent had to move out, but were able to strike a deal with their lender, such as for a short sale, where the owner is allowed to sell the home for less than the amount owed on the mortgage, avoiding a lengthy foreclosure.
Other programs have worked well, according to a report from the Boston Federal Reserve in September.
Among the success stories are Philadelphia, with 84 percent of households in mediation avoiding foreclosures; Nevada, 89 percent; and Cuyahoga County, Ohio, 61 percent.
However, participation rates vary, ranging from 20 percent in Nevada, where the homeowner opts in to the program, to 70 percent in Philadelphia, where enrollment is automatic, the report said.
Mediation has not succeeded in all states.
Last year New Hampshire scrapped a program that relied on lenders for referrals and suffered from low participation. Florida also got rid of its statewide program after limited outreach to homeowners hurt its overall success rate, although there are still local programs there.
Lenders and companies that service mortgages question the need for mediation laws, saying their own programs for working with struggling homeowners are more effective.
Steve O'Connor, senior vice president of public policy at the Mortgage Bankers Association, said an industry alliance known as Hope Now had done more than 5 million permanent loan modifications since mid-2007.
Asked about homeowners' statements that they cannot work with their lenders, O'Connor said that was more of a problem early in the crisis, when banks were not equipped to deal with the level of foreclosures and delinquencies.
"Lenders welcome the opportunity to interact with the borrower and try to figure out what the best solutions are," he said. But with mediation, "you get caught in this morass of requirements and steps that can actually drag out the process."
And that is the crux of the debate: whether mediation prolongs already lengthy foreclosures. Analysts caution, however, that many factors can affect the length of a foreclosure, making it difficult to isolate any one cause.
Data is limited, but Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, found that borrowers who participated in its program resolved their cases in slightly more than six months on average, compared with nearly a year for others.
Some programs go a step further by offering mediation to homeowners who are not yet in foreclosure.
Since late 2010, Fannie Mae, the top U.S. provider of mortgage money, has been running a pilot program in Florida for homeowners who are just behind on their payments.
Through a new program in Oregon, mediation is available to "underwater" homeowners, who have not yet missed a payment, but whose houses are worth less than their mortgages, putting them at risk of default in the future.
Salem, Oregon resident Ginny Real was a fixture in the push for the program, meeting with lawmakers to tell them how she lost her home of 24 years after being swamped by medical bills.
Real said mediation would have kept her in her home, but instead, she was shuttled from one bank representative to another as she tried to make a deal.
"I was never even able to talk to the same person twice and (the bank) always told me what I wanted to hear, not what was actually going on," she said.
The day after she was told that she was getting a loan modification, three investors turned up on her doorstep and said they had bought the house, she said. She and her disabled husband eventually had to move in with their daughter.
"I just don't feel that it was fair the way we lost our home," Real said. "So that drove me to say, 'Here's my story, here's what happened to me, and I don't want anybody else to go through the nightmare that I've been through.'"
(Reporting by Leah Schnurr in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)