Segway driver sues Medina Police

Medina Police arrested Mark Greenman, 48, of Medina three times for driving a Segway personal transporter while intoxicated (DUI), and each time he was cleared by the courts.

Now he is suing three Medina police officers, the Medina city prosecutor and the city of Medina.

Greenman filed his lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court Tuesday, July 9. Through his attorney Jordan Kushner, Greenman is asking for in excess of $50,000 compensatory damages and punitive damages, along with court costs and attorney’s fees, for nine counts of alleged violations of his rights. The alleged violations include unlawful and unreasonable search and seizure, denial of due process and malicious prosecution, violation of First Amendment free speech rights, failure to properly train and supervise law enforcement staff, false imprisonment, interference with personal property, and negligence in dealing with Greenman.

The three DUI arrests and the lawsuit revolve around what has been a gray area in state law. A series of court cases, including the Greenman cases, have clarified the current law. The issue is what is a motorized vehicle versus what is a pedestrian. After all three arrests, Greenman’s blood alcohol content was above the .08 legal limit for driving a motorized vehicle in Minnesota. However, he was driving a battery operated Segway that has a top speed of 12 miles per hour. Each time he was charged in court, judges ruled that he was a pedestrian and could not be convicted of driving a motorized vehicle while intoxicated.

Prior to the first arrest, Greenman was driving his Segway while standing on an injured foot. The Hennepin County judge compared his case to that of a disabled man in Duluth, who was arrested for DUI while driving a battery operated motor scooter and needed the scooter to get around. Courts ruled that he was a pedestrian and could not be convicted of driving a motorized vehicle while intoxicated.

When he was arrested the second time, Greenman had recovered from his foot injury. After the Hennepin County judge dismissed this case, Medina took it to the Minnesota Court of Appeals to get clarification on whether disabilities played a role in the definition of what is a pedestrian. Medina lost the appeal. Because of the Appeals Court decision, Hennepin County prosecutors dropped charges stemming from Greenman’s third arrest while driving drunk on his Segway.

Last month Greenman pleaded guilty to recklessly driving a personal assistive mobility device — a petty misdemeanor. The charges resulted from his third arrest.

In his lawsuit, Greenman claims that Medina Police and the city of Medina knew that he was a pedestrian and could not be arrested for driving a motorized vehicle while drunk. Yet they continued to arrest him for DUI on his Segway. In the lawsuit, his attorney called the charges “false criminal charges that were not supported by probable cause.”

The lawsuit also mentions a court case in which Greenman, who is an attorney, represented a client whose motor vehicle was forfeited by Medina Police. The court ruled in favor of Greenman’s client. Medina Police Officer Jeremiah Jessen initiated the forfeiture, according to the Segway lawsuit.

Jessen was the arresting officer in the first two arrests of Greenman on his Segway. Sgt. Jason Nelson was the arresting officer in the third arrest. Both officers are defendants in Greenman’s lawsuit, along with Medina Police Chief Ed Belland and Medina Prosecutor Steve Tallen. The lawsuit claims that Tallen told police to continue to arrest Greenman even though he knew that he was not driving illegally while drunk. Also Greenman and his attorney claim that the Medina Police did not properly train their officers.

Asked about the lawsuit, Police Chief Belland said he did not want to try the case in the news media. He did say, “We still believe that we are serving the public’s best interests by trying to take someone who was intoxicated and driving an electric motorized vehicle off the road.”

Attorney Dan Kurtz is representing defendants in the lawsuit. He commented, “Chief Belland, Sergeant Nelson, and Officer Jessen are aware that they have been named as defendants in a lawsuit that was filed by Mark Greenman. Simply put, the defense has a different understanding of the law and the facts than those portrayed by Mr. Greenman in his Complaint. We believe that the evidence will ultimately show the officers were simply doing their job and engaged in no wrongdoing. Since this lawsuit is in its infancy, it would be premature for us to comment any further at this time.”

Contact Susan Van Cleaf at [email protected]