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Lawsuit Claims Assault By Officers Newport, Pend Oreille County Sued Over Alleged Incident

Thu., June 12, 1997

The city of Newport and Pend Oreille County are being sued in federal court by a man who claims he was assaulted by a Newport policeman and a county jailer.

James M. Durham, 20, and his father, James A. Durham, seek unspecified damages for the way the younger Durham was treated when he was booked as a juvenile on suspicion of drunken driving in the early morning hours of June 17, 1994.

The elder Durham says he was at the jail to pick up his son, who was then 17, and witnessed much of the alleged misconduct by Newport police officer Ed Miller Jr. and county corrections officer Gregory Kepner.

Miller resigned in December 1995 after being accused of breaking into a house in the middle of the night without a warrant and roughing up a man he said harassed him on the telephone. Miller pleaded guilty in November to conducting an illegal search, and was sentenced to 30 days of electronically monitored home detention.

The suit says Kepner resigned in November 1994.

Authorities confirmed several other incidents in which Miller was suspected of excessive force or other unprofessional conduct.

Sheriff Doug Malby threatened in February 1995 to cancel Miller’s county deputation. Malby cited an incident earlier that month that he said was one more example of Miller’s “very unprofessional conduct.”

The sheriff warned city officials he had instructed his officers to withdraw backup support from Miller if they saw him violate police standards again.

The lawsuit says Durham was “repeatedly beaten and assaulted” by Miller and Kepner while in wrist and leg restraints.

Shortly after the incident, the younger Durham issued a statement that said he was repeatedly slammed onto the floor. The officers applied pressure to his neck to the point that he had difficulty breathing, Durham said. He said he suffered numerous injuries from the rough treatment, but didn’t claim to have been struck.

Durham said Miller initiated the attacks when he insisted on exercising his constitutional right to remain silent. He said Miller read him his rights and then said “I had to talk and could not remain silent.”

The youth eventually was released to the custody of his father, who urged him to calm down and cooperate.

The lawsuit contends the officers should have exercised special care because the suspect was an intoxicated juvenile. It also accuses the officers of trying to “cover up the beating” by asking, unsuccessfully, for Durham to be prosecuted for resisting arrest and obstructing a public servant.

Court records indicate prosecutors charged Durham in Juvenile Court with resisting arrest and fourth-degree assault. The charges were dismissed the following month, when he became an adult, and no new charges were filed in adult court.

, DataTimes

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