A jury awarded an Airway Heights man $300,000 in Federal Court after he sued a Spokane County Sheriff’s Office deputy over a traffic stop that ended with the man being tackled to the pavement.
The jury found that Deputy Dale Moyer was negligent in calling in the wrong license plate number when he stopped a car in which John W. Jenkins was riding. The number Moyer called in came back as a stolen vehicle.
Jurors did not find that Moyer or Deputy Mark Speer used excessive force against Jenkins.
“It’s hard not to be pleased with a $300,000 verdict,” said Jenkins’ attorney, David Partovi. “We thought it was excessive force. I think (Jenkins) has the attitude that a lot of us do, that this stuff needs to stop.”
Steve Bartel, the director of Spokane County’s risk management department, said the county may ask U.S. District Court Judge Edward Shea to reconsider the jury’s monetary award.
Jenkins was riding with his longtime partner, Joann G. Kausshen, on June 27, 2007, on Government Way in west Spokane.
Moyer stopped the vehicle for what he said was suspected speeding. He then called in the license plate as 548RPA instead of the correct number, 548RKA.
Thinking he had stopped a stolen car, Moyer called for assistance, and Speer and a Spokane police officer arrived.
Moyer used a loudspeaker to order the couple out of the car; Kausshen complied, but Partovi claimed Jenkins was confused by the instructions given.
Moyer then tackled Jenkins to the ground. Partovi said the maneuver reinjured Jenkins’ back, which was still healing from recent surgery.
During the trial, both deputies and the police officer claimed they believed Jenkins was going for a weapon before Moyer forcefully took him to the pavement. Jenkins, however, was not armed.
Spokane County prosecutors charged Jenkins with obstruction of justice, saying his actions delayed Moyer from continuing his patrol duties.
A jury in state court acquitted Jenkins in September 2007, and after the verdict was read, one of the jurors stood and chastised the county “for wasting resources with such a frivolous trial,” according to court records.
Evidence showed that Moyer had ample time to double-check the license before taking Kausshen and Jenkins into custody, and the jury sided with Partovi.
As a result of his injured back, Jenkins, 53, has since been approved to take early retirement from the Social Security Administration.