Judge dismisses federal claims against Medina Police

Greenman filed suit after 3 Segway DUI arrests

Answers are beginning to emerge in Medina resident Mark Greenman’s lawsuit against Medina Police Officer Jeremiah Jessen, Police Sgt. Jason Nelson, Medina Police Chief Ed Belland and Medina prosecutor Steve Tallen. But a final resolution of Greenman’s case might take awhile.

The case started out in 2010 with Medina Police claiming that Greenman was driving his Segway personal transportation device while intoxicated. Then it evolved into multiple legal claims by Greenman against the Medina police and prosecutor, including false imprisonment, unreasonable search and seizure, denial of due process and malicious prosecution, violation of free speech rights and conspiracy to violate his rights.

The most recent development is a March 25 decision by David Doty, a judge in Hennepin County 4th Judicial Court. He dismissed Greenman’s federal constitutional claims with prejudice, meaning that he cannot file another lawsuit based on the same federal grounds. However, Doty also remanded Greenman’s state law claims to Minnesota state court. This second part of his decision is what makes the future of the Greenman vs. Medina Police lawsuit unclear.

Greenman’s saga began when Medina police arrested him three times for driving his Segway while under the influence of alcohol. A battery-powered device, a Segway has a top speed of 12 mph, according to the Segway website. The arrests took place on Aug. 17, 2010, Feb. 4, 2012, and March 16, 2012. After all three arrests, Greenman failed blood alcohol tests.

Greenman was acquitted after the first arrest, when a judge ruled that he was a pedestrian, not the driver of a motorized vehicle. The judge said a Segway is comparable to a battery-operated motor scooter and other personal mobility devices often used by disabled people. At the time of this first arrest, Greenman had a broken foot.

Medina prosecutor Tallen told police that the judge might have acquitted Greenman because he was disabled at the time of his arrest. Then Tallen allegedly instructed officers to arrest Greenman if he was found to be able-bodied while driving the Segway under the influence of alcohol.

Officer Jessen arrested Greenman a second time on Feb. 4, 2012, after which he was charged with driving while impaired. Jessen also impounded the Segway and issued a notice of revocation of Greenman’s driver’s license.

Greenman’s third arrest took place on March 16, 2012, after Sgt. Nelson found him lying down next to his Segway on the sidewalk of Hunter Drive. Nelson impounded the Segway and issued a notice of forfeiture of the Segway and a notice of revocation of Greenman’s driver’s license. Then Greenman was transported to Hennepin County Jail, where he was booked for probable cause felony driving while intoxicated and held for three days.

Meanwhile, Greenman’s Feb. 4 arrest was in Hennepin County District Court. On Aug. 29, 2012, Judge Denise Reilly dismissed the charges and ruled that a Segway is not a motorized vehicle. Medina Police appealed the decision and on Jan. 22, 2013, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal. After learning that Medina Police had lost their appeal, the Hennepin County Attorney’s office dismissed charges related to the March 16 arrest.

Greenman filed a lawsuit against Medina Police and prosecutor Tallen July 8, 2013. In the summons, Greenman and his attorney claimed that charges of driving the Segway while impaired were “baseless” and that Tallen “was fully aware that a judge had already determined such an act was not a crime.”

Now that Judge Doty has dismissed federal constitutional law claims, Greenman and his attorney Jordan S. Kushner will determine whether or not to pursue state law claims against Medina Police and Prosecutor Tallen. A call to Kushner about the case was not returned by press time.

Anna Yunker is the attorney appointed by the League of Minnesota Cities to represent Medina. She explained that Greenman and his attorney could pursue four state issues related to their lawsuit. They include false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, negligence and trespass to chattel, which refers to seizure of Greenman’s Segway by police.

Yunker had not researched the details of Greenman’s claims of negligence. In his lawsuit summons, Greenman and his attorney claim that Medina Police “breached their duty to exercise a reasonable standard of care in dealing with Plaintiff, and acted willfully and maliciously.”

Commenting on the recent dismissal of federal claims, Yunker said her clients were pleased that Judge Doty recognized that the law was unclear at the time of Greenman’s arrests and that police acted appropriately given the situation. “They could not be expected to predict what would happen with the law,” Yunker said.

Contact Susan Van Cleaf at susan.vancleaf@ecm-inc.com 

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