An Ada County jury has awarded $1.5 million in damages plus $30,500 in lost wages to an Idaho State Police officer whose career advancement was derailed and who was assigned to night and weekend patrols after he testified in court that a Payette County sheriff’s deputy was at fault in a high-speed crash in 2011 that killed a civilian. Attorneys for former ISP crash reconstruction specialist Brandon Eller said top ISP commanders were incensed that any ISP officers would testify against the deputy, and made comments including “Those boys will be lucky to have a job working nights and weekends” and “I cannot believe that ISP is going to send a deputy to prison.”
The jury reached its verdict late Tuesday after five hours of deliberations, following a nine-day trial, the Idaho Statesman reports.
“Brandon is overwhelmed – it will take a while to sink in,” his attorney, Erika Birch, told the Statesman. “Everyone on his team just is feeling so blessed that finally he was able to tell the whole story and have a jury listen to it and respond in the way they did.”
Eller, a detective who still is employed by ISP, sued under Idaho’s whistleblower law. Two other crash investigators made similar allegations, but didn’t end up suing. The case against the deputy involved in the fatal crash fell apart after ISP provided conflicting information.
Jackie Raymond, the daughter of the civilian driver who was killed in the crash, Barry Johnson, sued Payette County for wrongful death and also sued ISP for tortious interference, saying the agency’s “cover-up and interference” and “evidence tampering” made it more difficult for her family to prove liability in the wrongful-death case. In January of this year, a judge dismissed Raymond’s claim against ISP but allowed the lawsuit against Payette County to go forward; it’s scheduled for trial next year.
ISP spokesman Tim Marsano told the Statesman the agency had no comment on the verdict; you can read Statesman reporter Cynthia Sewell’s full report here. UPDATE: Col. Kedrick Wills, ISP director, issued this statement late Wednesday afternoon:
“Obviously, we are disappointed in the outcome of this trial, but we respect the legal process and the rights of our employees to pursue their legal rights.
“When I took over the watch here at ISP, one of the first things we did was to initiate a climate survey seeking ideas for improvement from all ISP personnel. We are now several weeks into that process, which utilizes an outsider - a retired ISP employee - to conduct each face-to-face interview. In addition, ISP headquarters staff continues to look for other opportunities to improve processes across our statewide organization. Moving forward, we will continue in our mission of providing public safety across the State of Idaho through law enforcement excellence while taking care of our nearly 600 outstanding and dedicated personnel.”