PORTLAND, Ore. -- A federal civil rights investigation will be launched into the 2017 wrongful arrest of an African American man who says he was targeted because he complained about a racially hostile work environment at a Portland, Oregon, towing company.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports that the decision Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice comes comes a week after three members of Congress urged a federal probe into wrongdoing by West Linn, Oregon, police in building a questionable theft case against Michael Fesser.
The case led West Linn to settle a federal discrimination and wrongful arrest lawsuit by Fesser for $600,000. Oregon’s U.S. Attorney’s Office will investigate whether any federal crimes were committed. Fesser’s allegations cross two counties and involved both West Linn and Portland police departments.
Clackamas County District Attorney John Foote and Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill said they will continue their inquiries to determine if credibility concerns raised in the case about the involved officers should trigger a so-called Brady notice. That refers to an obligation under the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brady v. Maryland that requires prosecutors to disclose to defense lawyers any material that could impeach the credibility of a government witness.
The two district attorneys requested the criminal inquiry be handled by U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams’ office.
Fesser’s litigation uncovered that West Linn police pursued surveillance and the arrest of Fesser in February 2017 as a favor to a friend of then-West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus. The friend was Fesser’s boss.
Fesser, now 48, argued that the arrest was retaliation for his complaints about a racially hostile work environment at the towing company. Theft charges against Fesser ultimately were dropped.