PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Washington County board of commissioners voted Tuesday to authorize a $625,000 payout to settle a lawsuit brought by a man whose skull was fractured in what appears to have been an unprovoked attack by a county sheriff’s deputy in the jail’s booking area in 2018.
In a prepared statement, the board condemned Washington County sheriff’s deputy Rian Alden’s conduct that “needlessly injured” and traumatized Albert Molina, 45.
The settlement was reached days before the county district attorney’s office is expected to go before a grand jury to seek a felony second-degree assault indictment against the deputy, Rian Alden, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. Oregon law caps payouts in suits against municipalities to $700,000.
The case has spurred the Washington County District Attorney’s office to reform how it handles similar cases in the future, officials there said.
Molina was accused of riding a bike while intoxicated and was being booked into the Washington County Jail March 30, 2018.
A jail video released by Molina’s attorneys shows Alden directing Molina to stand against a wall for a booking photo. Molina appears to salute or gesture at Alden a few times. Alden gestures at Molina and after Molina makes another gesture and says something Alden slams Molina to the wall, appears to grab his neck, pins him to the ground and straddles him. Other deputies come over, and one appears to help Alden hold Molina down.
Molina’s attorneys filed a lawsuit in 2019, citing major injuries and medical expenses that exceeded $135,000. He spent 19 days in the hospital, including five days in the intensive care unit.
The case was initially brought to the county district attorney’s office for review in 2018.
The decision not to prosecute Alden was made after neither of the outside investigators – from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon State Police — nor the district attorney’s office sought or obtained Molina’s medical records that documented serious injuries, Washington County Chief Deputy District Attorney Bracken McKey told The Oregonian/OregonLive.
“We got this one wrong, and we own that,” McKey said.
The renewed interest in the jail assault case came after the district attorney’s office saw an article on OregonLive.com in early June about an investigation into Alden for an alleged racist email, McKey said.
Alden’s attorney, Dan Thenell, called it unfair that the district attorney’s office is prosecuting Alden after previously choosing not to.
“This is all about politics because of what happened in Minneapolis to George Floyd,” Thenell said.
The sheriff’s office now will reach out to outside experts on any allegations of use of force and is considering calling in a national expert to review the office’s use of force policies.
Molina’s attorney, Jason Kafoury, said he appreciates the county’s commitment to improving oversight of the sheriff’s department and jail. He called for more attention to the violence prisoners face and for the Oregon Legislature to establish an independent, state-wide unit to investigate serious injury and death cases.