A Seattle man who says he was retaliated against for complaining about police misconduct is seeking $1.5 million from the city.
A man who claims he was retaliated against and charged with a crime after complaining to Seattle police of rough treatment by officers filed a $1.5 million claim against the city on Wednesday, just hours before the city attorney’s office joined in a motion to vacate the conviction it had obtained against him.
Donald E. Fuller, 52, was convicted of obstructing a police officer in connection with his violent arrest on March 6, 2009, after officers stopped him for jaywalking near Second Avenue and Pike Street.
Fuller spent four days in jail before prosecutors initially decided against charges and he was released.
Fuller went to the Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) to complain about being beaten and stunned with a Taser, and the case was assigned to a sergeant who Fuller claims spent her time trying to get him charged with a crime rather than investigating Fuller’s treatment during his arrest.
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A city prosecutor eventually charged Fuller with misdemeanor assault on an officer and obstruction. A jury acquitted him of the assault charge, but Fuller was convicted of obstruction.
Fuller and his attorney, James Egan, complained that the OPA had violated its policy that promises “filing a complaint does not affect other civil or criminal matters.” City Attorney Pete Holmes agreed that Fuller would not have been charged and convicted if he hadn’t filed the OPA complaint, and joined in Wednesday’s motion to vacate the conviction.
Holmes, however, denied his office was involved in misconduct.
Holmes also noted the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission, with the support of the mayor’s office, has agreed to review the incident and look at the OPA’s policies and procedures.
Meantime, Holmes noted that the city and the Department of Justice are working to implement a settlement agreement in U.S. District Court that addresses concerns raised about the OPA in a Justice Department investigation that concluded last December that Seattle police routinely use excessive force. The DOJ cited several instances where officers would escalate minor incidents into violent confrontations.
According to a police report, the incident in 2006 began when two downtown officers witnessed Fuller jaywalk while watching for drug activity.
They stopped him and asked him for ID, and when Fuller refused and complained about his treatment he was hit in the face, stunned multiple times with a Taser and arrested.
Fuller’s claim is seeking lost wages, compensation for medical expenses, damages and attorney’s fees.
If the city does not respond or no settlement is reached, Egan said he will file a federal civil-rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court.
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or firstname.lastname@example.org