Spokane County will spend $120,000 to settle a lawsuit by a man who was jolted by a sheriff deputy’s Taser during a traffic stop in 2005.
County commissioners agreed Tuesday to settle the federal civil rights case filed by Troy Smith without accepting liability in the case, which stems from a traffic stop in Spokane Valley. The case was scheduled for a jury trial next month in U.S. District Court.
Smith was driving a car with two passengers and a dog one night in October 2005 when he swerved over a dividing line on Mullan Road and was stopped by Deputy Michael McNees. Smith pulled into a parking lot and McNees followed him.
According to the lawsuit filed in 2006, McNees asked Smith if he had been drinking. Smith said he’d had a soda and told the deputy “if drinking a soda was a crime ‘then book me.’ ” McNees ordered Smith to produce his license and registration. When Smith turned to get the registration out of a backpack on the floor behind him, the deputy asked what he was doing. He eventually ordered Smith out of the car, the lawsuit says.
McNees ordered Smith to get onto the ground in the front of the car, the lawsuit said, and shocked him with a Taser as he began to lower himself. Smith did not refuse to obey an order or obstruct McNees, the suit said. He was on the ground for several minutes and jolted by the Taser at least two more times.
The county, in its response to the lawsuit, said McNees saw Smith reaching behind his seat for an unknown reason, became concerned and ordered him to stop. Smith didn’t stop, the county said, and McNees drew his Taser and ordered him out of the car.
The county acknowledged Smith was struck with the Taser but only after he “refused to cooperate” with the order to get on the ground.
The county said he wasn’t on the ground for several minutes, as the lawsuit claimed, but agreed “he was struck with the Taser more than once,” according to court filings.
Eventually, other deputies arrived, Smith was taken into custody and the two passengers were interviewed for official statements.
The lawsuit claims another deputy misrepresented what Monti Foster, Smith’s girlfriend, said and told the other passenger, Julian Taylor, he’d be arrested too if he didn’t add a line to his statement saying that Smith refused to obey McNees’ commands.
The county denied that anything in the statements from Foster or Taylor was misrepresented and the alleged threat against Taylor. More than half of the settlement, $62,500, covers costs and fees. Another $10,000 is placed in a trust account for Smith’s daughter, who will turn 3 in May.
Richard Wall, Smith’s attorney, said the costs include depositions from expert witnesses.
Smith doesn’t have any long-term physical problems from being shocked by the Taser, Wall said, but does seem to have emotional effects.
People who have known him for years say “he tends to get angry easier,” Wall said.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.