Post details: Police Defendants Pay $210,000 To Settle Illegal Roadblock Lawsuit

2012-06-09

Permalink 15:40:30, Categories: News, Roadblock Lawsuit, Checkpoints, 1001 words   English (EU)

Police Defendants Pay $210,000 To Settle Illegal Roadblock Lawsuit

3,451 days after being seized, detained, dragged out of my vehicle & arrested at an illegal general law enforcement roadblock conducted by Tohono O'odham Police Dept. officers with the assistance of Senior Special U.S. Customs agents along with dozens of U.S. Border Patrol agents, Checkpoint USA's lawsuit has finally settled for $210,000 exactly 3,087 days after it was filed.

[More:]

Originally filed in AZ Superior Court on December 19, 2003, this suit came on the heels of a year long (successful) battle in Ajo Justice Court to defend myself against several malicious charges brought against me by the defendant police officers and their enabler in the Pima County Attorney's Office, Philip Perkins. The case was removed from Arizona's Superior Court against our wishes & moved to the Tucson Federal District Court in 2004. This after the defendant police officers enlisted the aid of the U.S. Attorney's Office to certify they were federal employees due to a contract with the BIA and therefor couldn't be sued in state court.

After successfully moving the case to federal district court, the United States substituted itself in as the defendant for the malicious prosecution charge and the police defendants went on to argue they couldn't be sued in federal court on the remaining claims. The basis for their position was that despite the fact they were enforcing state law along a state highway as duly sworn state peace officers at the roadblock in question and were also operating as federal contractors with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to provide general law enforcement services on the reservation, they represented the Tohono O'odham Nation and therefor enjoyed sovereign immunity from suit. After several years of legal wrangling around this issue, district court judge John Roll bought into their argument and dismissed the lawsuit in 2007.

This was how the case ended up in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals later that same year before being remanded back to Tucson District Court in 2009 upon a largely successful appeal of Judge Roll's dismissal two years earlier.

After the successful appeal, the case languished in Judge Roll's court for nearly two more years during which time the judge failed or refused to schedule the case for further proceedings despite multiple requests to do so. This was where we were at until semi-retired 9th Circuit Judge Wallace Tashima took over the case after Judge Roll was shot & killed by gunman Jared Loughner at a Congresswoman Giffords event in January of 2011 in Tucson, AZ. After Judge Tashima took over the case, it underwent further discovery and was moving towards trial this month until settlement was reached & finalized on May 31, 2012.

During the course of the lawsuit, over 240 legal documents related to the case became part of the official court record. This breaks down to an average of roughly one new document filed with the court every 1.8 weeks over nearly nine years. I don't know how many pages make up all these documents but I do know they take up nearly two filing cabinet drawers in my office and hundreds of megabytes of disk space on my online lawsuit repository.

In addition to all the legal documents filed by both sides over the years, attorneys working on the case on my behalf logged somewhere on the order of 1,400 hours. While I don't know how many hours were logged by the U.S. Attorney's Office during the time frame it was involved or the attorneys working directly for the police defendants, it's most likely a similar order of magnitude. If this is accurate then somewhere around 3,000 hours were spent by attorneys on this case. Additionally, I'm fairly certain I spent at least as much time on the case as my attorneys and none of this analysis considers the amount of time the various courts/judges spent on it as well.

The purpose of the above analysis is to provide some measure of the level of effort that went into this lawsuit over the years. While a full review of the lawsuit and its implications are outside the scope of this blog entry (more to come later), I did want to establish a baseline for the work involved to serve as an indicator of just how appreciative I am of the support & assistance I received from so many people over the years. This includes everything from the countless supportive emails and comments I've received, the donations made by several individuals to help offset costs - especially during the early stages of the incident & the years of pro-bono legal assistance offered by different organizations and attorneys.

I want to give special thanks to the Identity Project, through the First Amendment Project, which assisted greatly with the case - especially during the time frame it was in the 9th circuit. And most importantly, I want to recognize the efforts of my attorney David Euchner who diligently worked this case from start to finish and did the lion's share of the legal work along with Ralph Ellinwood who signed on as co-counsel in April of 2010. Without their efforts, this case wouldn't have made it very far at all.

After the dust has settled and I've had more time to reflect on the case and its aftermath, I'll write a more detailed analysis of how I think things went and where to go from here but for now I wanted to provide a relatively brief overview of the genesis of the case for those less familiar with it along with timely public notice of the lawsuit's final disposition.

Once again, my thanks go out to all those who provided support and assistance over the years. Without it, there wouldn't be much to talk about today.

Below appears the legal documentation associated with final disposition of this case:

Comments:

Comment from: Kirsten (in MT) [Visitor]
Congratulations, Terry! Aside from the compensation, are they required to do any re-training, change up policies, or take any other corrective action?
Permalink 2012-06-16 @ 10:33
Comment from: Guy Mac [Visitor]
Congrats Terry, what a fight!
Permalink 2012-06-16 @ 10:57
Congratulations.

I have been following your blog and learning because of it for years now.
Permalink 2012-06-16 @ 10:59
Comment from: Checkpoint USA [Member]
Thanks Kirsten!

Unfortunately this was purely a monetary settlement. As part of the agreement, I dropped all remaining claims while the police get to claim they did nothing wrong despite losing at the 9th circuit, despite making case law that makes it clear tribal police cannot claim sovereign immunity while enforcing state law on a state right of way and despite dishing out $210,000 to me & my attorneys (and I would assume at least that much to their attorneys as well).

I'll get into a detailed analysis of the pressures & legal issues of why I went with settlement instead of pursing the case through trial (and probably further appeals as well) in my next blog entry but I wanted to get this out there first.

You can probably guess at some of the reasons already - especially if you read the defendants motions in limine that I posted in the last blog entry. Given how the court system works, there's a fairly good chance the police would have been successful in prohibiting a large chunk of testimony and evidence during trial meaning the jury wouldn't have been allowed to hear the full story.

While I think we would have still prevailed on a number of key issues, most likely damages would have been limited to next to nothing which in turn would have limited leverage for injunctive relief, attorney's fees, etc. This in turn would have forced more appeals and several more years of litigation, etc, etc, etc....
Permalink 2012-06-16 @ 11:20
Comment from: Kirsten (in MT) [Visitor]
My recollection from way back when was that at the beginning of the case, your intention was sort of to test the legal system to see whether or not it was a system through which you could get justice. What are your thoughts on working within the system on this side of it all?
Permalink 2012-06-16 @ 11:52
Comment from: Checkpoint USA [Member]
I was hoping to address that issue in future posts as well Kirsten but I can comment here also.

Someone once said that justice delayed is justice denied. The incident involved with this lawsuit took place nearly ten years ago with the cops still claiming they did nothing wrong after the court route has run its course.

There's no justice in that.

The court system is definitely biased and dysfunctional but I still think it has it's uses. It's part of an answer, not THE answer. And it's only part of an answer for those who have the resources/staying power to hang on long enough to make it so.

I suspect that the court system is more equitable for instances when the two parties involved are on a somewhat equal footing to begin with and the gov't doesn't have a vested interest in the outcome. For cases like mine however where the gov't is a party and the government courts are involved, bias is the name of the game and the other party is at a distinct disadvantage every step of the way.

Looking back, the fact that we were able to take it as far as we did speaks volumes for the strength of the underlying issue...
Permalink 2012-06-16 @ 12:52
Comment from: Pafoofnik1 [Visitor]
I wish we could get 'government pays' whenever a citizen prevails over his own government... Even when it's a settlement.
It makes sense to me. Remember, they are fighting us using our own money.
Permalink 2012-06-16 @ 13:57
Comment from: Checkpoint USA [Member]
Thanks Guy and thanks Alex. I've appreciated your comments and feedback over the years.
Permalink 2012-06-16 @ 14:40
Comment from: Kirsten (in MT) [Visitor]
The thing about "government pays" is that, as you point out, it's really taxpayers pay. The only thing I can think of that would really help here is something that the government will, of course, not permit- personal liability for those who are responsible. As we saw in Terry's case, when he sued those individuals personally, the government just substituted itself in their place. Nothing has really happened to them to cause them to change their actions in the future.
Permalink 2012-06-16 @ 15:57
Comment from: Eric [Visitor]
Congratulations Terry! You have sacrificed a great deal for all of us, and I and many others I'm sure are in your debt! You, sir, are an exemplary American.
Permalink 2012-06-16 @ 20:28
Comment from: Doug [Visitor]
Congratulations Terry. I suspect the taste of the injustices will linger. The worst part about it being over is that it's over. The police. The judges. The Feds. The system. The badge bunnies who support the authoritarians. They want compliance, and they will escalate, using all their massive powers, until they get it. You did not capitulate. That is almost impossible in America today. If there were more people like you, America would not be in this alarming condition. However - you are 1 in a million. I could not have done what you did - I do not have the fortitude. Thank you for all you have done. Your intellect, resolve, and demeanor are exceptional. What you have done is almost superhuman. I do so hate to see those individual cops get off without damage. I have no good feelings for those on the other side of this (police judges, etc.). The depth of the antipathy I feel for those people is actually surprising and alarming to me.
But . . . this whole thing continues. We still live under the same conditions. We walk back out into it tomorrow. There is no respite - except temporarily feeling buoyed for your success here. Congratulations - and thanks.
Permalink 2012-06-16 @ 22:44
Comment from: mark edward marchiafava [Visitor]
When the people fear the government, you have tyranny. When the government fear the people, you have liberty.

Judging from the videos, they don't fear us.
Permalink 2012-06-17 @ 00:53
Comment from: Checkpoint USA [Member]
"I wish we could get 'government pays' whenever a citizen prevails over his own government... Even when it's a settlement. It makes sense to me. Remember, they are fighting us using our own money."

The defendant cops never faced any personal liability in this case whatsoever. I on the other hand was initially facing 8 months in jail and a several thousand dollar fine on trumped up charges. I had to put up thousands of dollars to defend myself against the malicious charges and then had to put up thousands more during the lawsuit...and that was with pro-bono legal assistance.

This is one of the reasons why things never get better. Government agents rarely face personal liability for their illegal acts and thus have no incentive to modify their behavior.

In cases like this, you can only hope that the insurance company threatens to either significantly raise premiums or not renew policies in order to force a police dept like the TOPD to modify its procedures and practices in such a way as to limit future liability.

The other thing you can hope for is that more people will understand/learn about their rights and be more willing to grab the bull by its horns and sue agencies and agents that violate them. If even 1% of those stopped at the same checkpoint that I was in 2002 had done the same thing, the "insurance barrier" to personal liability may very well have been breached.

Unfortunately, cases of widespread police abuse more closely approximate circumstances & outcomes seen in the 'tragedy of the commons' then anything else.
Permalink 2012-06-18 @ 23:36
Comment from: mark edward marchiafava [Visitor]
See my initial comment, therein lies the cure.
Permalink 2012-06-19 @ 17:43
Comment from: mark edward marchiafava [Visitor]
cannot find it anywhere online, do you know if Stephen Anderson won his civil suit?
Permalink 2012-06-19 @ 18:06
Comment from: Julie [Visitor]
Woo-hoo! Thanks for fighting the good fight, Terry!
Permalink 2012-06-20 @ 14:26
Comment from: Checkpoint USA [Member]
"Congratulations Terry."

Thank you.

"I suspect the taste of the injustices will linger. The worst part about it being over is that it's over."

It does linger but then again I didn't enter the scenario naively & injustice is ultimately the driving force for seeking & giving value to justice. I never expected this legal action to solve the problem because the problem is too large for this singular incident or this singular issue. This was a learning experience for me, and hopefully for others as well.

"The police. The judges. The Feds. The system. The badge bunnies who support the authoritarians. They want compliance, and they will escalate, using all their massive powers, until they get it."

They'll certainly try & in many instances they'll get their coveted compliance. The only question is whether or not enough individuals will evolve in whatever ways are necessary to force the authoritarian line to be drawn and even push it back.

"You did not capitulate. That is almost impossible in America today."

In many instances, capitulation is in the eye of the beholder. There was capitulation in accepting settlement over going to trial. There was also success.

"If there were more people like you, America would not be in this alarming condition. However - you are 1 in a million. I could not have done what you did - I do not have the fortitude. Thank you for all you have done. Your intellect, resolve, and demeanor are exceptional. What you have done is almost superhuman."

While I appreciate the sentiment, you give me more credit than I deserve. I had a lot of assistance along the way & took my strength from any number of others fighting their own individual battles. Additionally, a lot of that assistance came with compromise over competing interests. The real trick is knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. Whether or not I found the optimum dividing line in this case, I don't know but I do think it was a success overall.

"I do so hate to see those individual cops get off without damage. I have no good feelings for those on the other side of this (police judges, etc.). The depth of the antipathy I feel for those people is actually surprising and alarming to me."

But they didn't get off without damage. They had ten years to explicitly think about what they did and what they're doing. This case also helped dispel various illusions they had regarding the limits of their lawful authority & reminded them that every time they interact with an individual, they have a responsibility to make sure they do it professionally and within the boundaries of 'legal' limitations or else they may find themselves having to think about it again for another ten years.

"But . . . this whole thing continues. We still live under the same conditions. We walk back out into it tomorrow. There is no respite - except temporarily feeling buoyed for your success here. Congratulations - and thanks."

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. If we can all learn to share in that vigilance by finding ways to effectively fight are own individual battles and assist others in fighting theirs, conditions WILL change for the better.

Thanks for your comments and your concern.
Permalink 2012-06-20 @ 23:57
Comment from: Checkpoint USA [Member]
"cannot find it anywhere online, do you know if Stephen Anderson won his civil suit?"

I know one was filed or at least was in the works but I never heard what the final outcome was. If the Arizona DPS and Border Patrol was smart, they settled with him quickly & quietly with a non-disclosure statement in the settlement agreement. Something I made clear I would not accept in any settlement in my case & to the defendant police officer's credit, was never pushed.
Permalink 2012-06-21 @ 00:03
Comment from: Checkpoint USA [Member]
Thank you Eric.
Permalink 2012-06-21 @ 00:09
Comment from: Checkpoint USA [Member]
Thanks Julie! It was definitely an interesting ride....
Permalink 2012-06-21 @ 00:10
Comment from: North Carolina Liberty [Visitor]
Terry,

Thanks so much for your effort and fighting the good fight. You did very well, especially considering that the judicial system is often part of the problem in that three branch system we call government. I agree that you were fighting a very imbalanced contest. It is ever so easy for government run amok to simply use the people’s money to fight those very same people.

Somebody here mentioned that you are one a million. You are that and a lot more. It would have been easy for you just to write this off and be one of the many who quietly put up with this nonsense. The amount of effort you put into this case is outstanding. The amount of detail displayed on your website is doubly outstanding. A person might think that your website is the effort of many in some type of corporation. The fact that you were behind this website sharing and educating through this technology is very encouraging. You reached people nationally and probably internationally.

I have somewhat been involved in this issue for several years. If it was not for your website, then I really don’t know how much I would have pursued roadblocks. Maybe not at all. Yours was the first website I would visit whenever I sat down on certain nights to do a little research. I thought of your website as a great anchor for this subject. My connection to this issue tells me that internet information like yours has already made a difference to this point. Who would have thought just two years ago that at least five states would have recently introduced legislation curbing or banning these roadblocks? The fact that roadblock legislation failed last year in three states and continually fails in Texas is also encouraging. Perhaps we should be less surprised in 2012 regarding these and other developments. Your case and your endeavor exposed some very harsh realities regarding roadblock ineffectiveness.

I sincerely hope that your undertaking serves as an inspiration to others. It certainly inspired me. It will hopefully encourage others to become involved in this issue or other 4th amendment issues. Your continual interaction proves that government is not some abstract entity that is unreachable. There are individual faces behind government. Their indolence and maliciousness must be confronted. There are also people behind what we call society. Individuals matters. People fighting for what is right matter. You are one of those individuals.

I hope you take some time for a breather. I hope a vacation or something similar is in order for you and your family. You have deserved it. Congratulations.

Permalink 2012-06-25 @ 22:01
Comment from: John Sabot [Visitor]
Congratulations for winning your case! Your encounters are a work of art. Every activist needs to see your videos. We want more!
Permalink 2012-06-28 @ 10:44
Comment from: checkpoint charlie [Visitor]
Gerry Spence, the famous trial lawyer:
“I found that the minions of the law–the special agents of the FBI–to be men who proved themselves not only fully capable, but also utterly willing to manufacture evidence, to conceal crucial evidence and even to change the rules that governed life and death if, in the prosecution of the accused, it seemed expedient to do so.” –From Freedom to Slavery, p. 27

Well surely the court judges are concerned with justice?
Spence: “We are told that our judges, charged with constitutional obligations, insure equal justice for all. That, too, is a myth. The function of the law is not to provide justice or to preserve freedom. The function of the law is to keep those who hold power, in power.” –p 109
Permalink 2012-07-01 @ 13:08
Comment from: Steve [Visitor]
Summary:

Suspicion-less I.D. requests,
suspicion-less searches requests,
suspicion-less conversation requests,
are all VOLUNTARY, you can decline. Remember: you have the right to leave.

#1 "Please show me YOUR I.D. officer."

#2 "Do I have the right to leave now?"

#3 "If you have no reasonable grounds to suspect a crime, I have the right to leave now so notify your supervisor immediately."

Repeat these 3 sentences CALMLY (calmly, without disturbing the peace) until the officer (or his supervisor, or his supervisor's supervisor) admits that you do indeed have the right to leave.

It takes courage to refuse suspicion-less I.D. requests by police officers.
To gain courage to refuse suspicion-less I.D. requests here are 15 successes:

http://www.youtube.com/user/CheckpointUSA#p/u/42/u6uw7506xMw January 8, 2008
http://www.youtube.com/user/CheckpointUSA#p/u/41/K8hcf1flFHA January 9, 2008
http://www.youtube.com/user/CheckpointUSA#p/u/40/irYJVn2k6zU January 20, 2008
http://www.youtube.com/user/CheckpointUSA#p/u/39/TuIwz8ddAYo January 23, 2008
http://www.youtube.com/user/CheckpointUSA#p/u/37/fKDdH8xtpN4 February 1, 2008
http://www.youtube.com/user/CheckpointUSA#p/u/35/yHqpuVetLeo March 3, 2008
http://www.youtube.com/user/CheckpointUSA#p/u/34/xZ8dothFvx8 March 21, 2008
http://www.youtube.com/user/CheckpointUSA#p/u/33/mC1hXigi6xc April 1, 2008
http://www.youtube.com/user/CheckpointUSA#p/u/32/gRk3awO1Jq0 April 22, 2008
http://www.youtube.com/user/CheckpointUSA#p/u/31/Fv8hoQYeVl0 May 27, 2008
http://www.youtube.com/user/CheckpointUSA#p/u/29/kG5FFilmjfc September 4, 2008
http://www.youtube.com/user/CheckpointUSA#p/u/28/DDLlEh0x2XA November 26, 2008
http://www.youtube.com/user/CheckpointUSA#p/u/24/sDjB1e7CNF4 August 22, 2009
http://www.youtube.com/user/CheckpointUSA#p/u/9/Z2aCrrL3CWQ December 2, 2009
http://www.youtube.com/user/CheckpointUSA#p/u/8/VdDEBT-UoJ0 February 25, 2011

This brave man refusing suspicion-less I.D. requests, Terrence Bressi, was eventually illegally arrested for refusing on December 20, 2002.

The arrest was illegal because the officers had no reasonable grounds to suspect a crime, Bressi had the right to refuse to show his I.D., as we all have the right to refuse to show our I.D. when there is no reasonable grounds to suspect a crime.

Thus, because the officers violated his civil rights, the police officers' insurance company paid Bressi on June 9th, 2012 the amount of $210,000.

https://www.checkpointusa.org/blog/index.php/2012/06/09/p255#more255

When officers have no reasonable grounds to suspect a crime, they have no legal ability to detain a person against their will.

Meaning, when officers have no reasonable grounds to suspect a crime, they must allow the person to leave when the person makes it clear that they want to leave, according to the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Bressi enjoys a right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as we all do.

Additionally, the United States Supreme Court has clearly established those rights as applied to sobriety checkpoints and roadblocks in Michigan Dept. Of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444, 110 S.Ct. 2481 (1990), and City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. 32, 121 S.Ct. 447 (2000).

Bressi’s civil rights were violated when the Defendants seized his person and vehicle without reasonable suspicion pursuant to a roadblock that did not satisfy Constitutional requirements stated in Sitz and Edmond.

Bressi enjoins all officers from violating the Constitution and laws of the United States and of the State, at all times, and especially when conducting roadblocks and sobriety checkpoints on public rights-of-way.

Bressi received an amount of $210,000 on June 9th, 2012 to compensate him for the violation of his civil rights.

Remember:

Suspicion-less I.D. requests are VOLUNTARY.
Suspicion-less search requests are VOLUNTARY.
Suspicion-less conversation requests are VOLUNTARY.

#1 "Please show me YOUR I.D. officer."
#2 "Do I have the right to leave now?"
#3 "If you have no reasonable grounds to suspect a crime, I have the right to leave now so notify your supervisor immediately."
Permalink 2012-07-03 @ 08:15
Comment from: VAPA [Visitor]
Great work Terry. Your tenacity and your American, stubborn, liberty loving ways are a real example to me.

You are a fine American and a fine human being.

Congratulations on all that you have done, all the hard work, all the time spent, for OUR liberty.

“Thanks to God that he gave me stubborness when I know I am right.”

- John Adams
Permalink 2012-07-18 @ 15:03
Comment from: North Carolina Liberty [Visitor]
Great John Adams quote, VAPA. I am going to use it when my wife calls me stubborn!
Permalink 2012-07-21 @ 00:16
Comment from: Keith [Visitor]
Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty you! TB are free at last...until some gov't punk tries to punk you or I once again to make it tough on us or our under 18 y/o's who will inherit this police state (that is unless we do more of what you did to exercise our rights!
Permalink 2012-07-29 @ 19:20
Comment from: Individual [Visitor]
I registered for the forums and am waiting for the follow up activation.
When you get the chance could you fix me up. Thanks so much for all this valuable information.
Didn't know how else to contact you.
Permalink 2012-07-31 @ 23:10
Comment from: VAPA [Visitor]
Good strategy NCL. Just make sure you're right, unlike Adams, ala the Alien and Sedition Act.

Just shows how human we are, and how power corrupts. We've all got to come together to bring a Constitutional Revival to America.
Permalink 2012-08-08 @ 11:35
Comment from: Gregory Smith [Visitor] · http://www.nomadicity.blogspot.com
Terry:
Not much I can add to what has already been said, but I felt that at a minimum I owed you an explicit acknowledgement of the debt we all owe you. Thank you for all you have done -- you are indeed an exceptionally courageous and wise individual.
Permalink 2012-09-29 @ 09:05

Comments are closed for this post.

Roadblock Revelations

Welcome to Checkpoint USA's blog. Here you'll find general information and discussions regarding growing threats to our right to privacy & travel.

While I refer to court cases along with state and federal law frequently in this blog, nothing written here should be construed as legal advice. I am not an attorney. Rather, I'm someone concerned about the growing disregard for individual rights present at all levels of government.

My conclusions are my own based upon personal experience and research. The law is made purposely complex however and varies significantly from place to place and circumstance to circumstance.

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