Lawsuit against police dismissed

This ends false arrest claim against Medina Police

Medina Police Officers Charmane Domino and Jeremiah Jessen and Minnesota State Trooper Chris Erickson have been waiting for two-and-a-half years to find out whether a false arrest lawsuit against them would go to trial.

The suspense ended on April 30, when their attorney, Dan Kurtz, notified the city of Medina that the lawsuit had been dismissed with prejudice. The plaintiff in the case was Medina resident Karl Hanson who filed his lawsuit in September 2010, following what, for him, was a traffic stop for speeding that went wrong in September 2009.

In the midst of the lawsuit, Hanson ran for Mayor of Medina in November and lost the election to incumbent Mayor Tom Crosby.

“The case is dismissed with prejudice, which means that Mr. Hanson cannot re-file it,” Attorney Kurtz said about the March 26 ruling of United States District Judge John R. Tunheim.

The ruling ended a stressful two-and-a-half years for both sides of the case.

At one point Medina Police Chief Ed Belland commented about the stress on his two police officers as they waited to learn whether they would go on trial for turning a simple stop for speeding into an investigation as to whether Hanson was driving under the influence of an unknown drug.

The traffic stop for Hanson in Medina happened when he was driving at 62 miles per hour in a 40 miles per hour zone at 8:20 p.m., Sept. 12, 2009 and released from Hennepin County Jail at 3:42 a.m. the following morning. He left County Jail without a ride home and still needed to retrieve his car from impoundment, according to court records.

Earlier that day, Hanson was practicing slalom water skiing with a friend, according to court records. He was headed home to pick up a wheel and tire for his friend’s boat trailer, when Medina Officer Domino stopped him for speeding. She observed his behavior and physical state and wondered whether he was driving under the influence of a substance. She called in Officer Jessen and asked for his opinion.

Jessen administered field sobriety tests, which Hanson failed. Neither Jessen nor Domino smelled alcohol on Hanson’s breath. The two officers took Hanson to the Medina Police Station and called in Minnesota State Trooper Erickson, who is a drug recognition expert. A breath test showed no evidence of alcohol in Hanson’s system. Erickson concluded that Hanson was under the influence of a central nervous system stimulant and depressant.

Domino, Jessen and Erickson decided to transport Hanson in handcuffs to Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park for drawing a blood sample for testing by the state Bureau of Criminal Affairs. The BCA tested the sample for common drugs, but not all drugs available to consumers, and then returned a negative result. Because of the negative finding, Medina Police charged Hanson with speeding and did not charge him with driving under the influence. He was discharged from County Jail.

Hanson and his attorney Nathan Hansen filed their lawsuit against Domino, Jessen and Erickson and used as a basis for the suit the negative breath and drug tests. Attorneys for the police officers responded by asking for a motion of summary judgment, basically a ruling that evidence does not support the case going to trial. A key issue was whether the police officers had probable cause to extend Hanson’s traffic stop for speeding into an investigation of whether he was driving on the influence of a substance.

Attorney Hansen stated in pleadings opposing the summary judgment that his client was processed as a DUI because police thought he was uncooperative and rude to them, basically “in contempt of cop.” Police decided Hanson was “going to jail no matter what.” Hansen and Hanson used as supportive evidence videos that were entered into court records.

Magistrate Judge Tony Leung looked at the evidence in the summary judgment proceeding and recommended on Oct. 22, 2012, to Judge Tunheim that Hanson’s lawsuit be dismissed with prejudice. Leung said in his recommendation, “Probable cause is determined at the time of arrest, not from facts that are learned after the arrest takes place.… Even if Officer Jessen was mistaken that Plaintiff was impaired while operating his vehicle, which is the crux of Plaintiff’s argument, this would not mean that Officer Jessen violated Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights by arresting him.”

Attorney Hansen filed objections to Leung’s recommendation.

And now both sides have a final answer from Judge Tunheim. He has agreed with Judge Leung’s recommendation, and the false arrest lawsuit has been dismissed. Karl Hanson cannot continue this legal action against the three law enforcement officers.

Judge Tunheim said in his ruling, “Although the September 12, 2009 traffic stop and resulting arrest was unfortunate, nothing in the record of this case suggest to the Court that a Fourth Amendment violation or a conspiracy occurred.”

Attorney Kurtz commented on the dismissal in an e-mail, “The defense was confident all along that the evidence would show that the officers lawfully arrested Mr. Hanson. The Court ultimately agreed with us and the City and the officers are obviously very happy with the decision.”

Attorney Hansen said he had no comment about the dismissal of his client’s law suit.

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