Police lawsuit to cost city 6 figures, source says
Seattle Times staff reporter
The city of Seattle has agreed to pay $185,000 to a man who filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the police department after he was beaten, kicked and arrested by officers outside a Capitol Hill nightclub in 2005, according to court documents and an informed source.
City Attorney Thomas Carr released the details of the settlement with Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes late Friday, after earlier refusing to do so. The case was scheduled for trial next week.
The violent arrest of Alley-Barnes outside the War Room early April 13, 2005, sparked outrage among some in the African-American community and highlighted Chief Gil Kerlikowske's record of overturning discipline recommendations made by the department's civilian-run Office of Professional Accountability (OPA).
The OPA recommended that two officers and a sergeant be disciplined after the incident, which started when a friend of Alley-Barnes' threw a piece of paper on the ground in front of the sergeant as the club was closing. The sergeant confronted the friend, and when Alley-Barnes started asking questions, other officers were called to the scene.
Alley-Barnes, 29, was taken to the ground by at least four officers and repeatedly kicked and punched until he was bloodied. A patrol car dashboard camera captured audio, but not video, of the arrest. Alley-Barnes, an artist with no criminal record, can be heard on the tape pleading with officers to "please stop kicking me." Another voice can be heard saying: "That's way too much!"
A photograph of Alley-Barnes taken in the jail shows him with blood running down his swollen face. An internal investigation later showed that an officer also rammed the handcuffed Alley-Barnes' face into a wall at the police precinct.
Alley-Barnes was charged with assaulting an officer and interfering, but the case was dismissed because the city failed to turn over the video from the arrest.
The civilian director of the OPA recommended that the two officers be disciplined for using excessive force and the sergeant for inadequate supervision.
Instead, Kerlikowske — who later called the incident "horrible" — exonerated the officers, and the department missed a six-month deadline to impose discipline on then-Sgt. Gregory Sackman. While Kerlikowske has said that Sackman "had far more blame" than the others, he was promoted to lieutenant in June.
The City Council has since passed an ordinance requiring the chief to justify in writing his reasons when he departs from OPA-recommended discipline.
Alley-Barnes' attorney, Fred Diamondstone, declined to comment except to say that the "settlement figure is certainly an amount the city is not happy paying."
In the settlement, the city does not concede any wrongdoing.
Assistant City Attorney Sean Sheehan said that the $185,000 was less than the city had offered Alley-Barnes in failed settlement negotiations earlier. He also said they had asked for the confidentiality offer.
"That shows you how proud they are of the outcome," he wrote in an e-mail.
Diamondstone said Alley-Barnes had asked for the confidentiality agreement "because he would prefer the amount not be disclosed." He said Alley-Barnes was told the city would have to follow the state's public-disclosure laws, which require the release of publicly funded court settlements.
Ted Buck, a lawyer contracted by the city to represent the officers, said the city's settlement included a confidentiality agreement, even though city lawyers knew it was unenforceable. Carr initially cited the clause as a reason not to release the information. Buck said attorneys were anxious to adopt a settlement that ended nearly two years of "brutal litigation."
Carr, whom Gov. Christine Gregoire recently appointed to head a committee reviewing the Public Disclosure Act, said he signed off on the settlement even though it contained a provision that has resulted in a delay in the release of information he agrees is public. Carr on Thursday had refused to release the details, but did so late Friday after The Seattle Times filed a public disclosure request.
"Sometimes we have to get off our high horse to get a deal done," he said.
Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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