Public Safety

Arizona man sues Linn County Attorney for malicious prosecution in a robbery he didn't commit

Robbery charge against Joseph McBride was dismissed in October

(FILE PHOTO) Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden points toward Nicholas Luerkens as he talks during opening statements in Linn County District Court on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. Luerkens is accused of first-degree murder in the death of his former girlfriend Lynnsey Donald in the parking lot of the Marion Hy-Vee on April 21. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
(FILE PHOTO) Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden points toward Nicholas Luerkens as he talks during opening statements in Linn County District Court on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. Luerkens is accused of first-degree murder in the death of his former girlfriend Lynnsey Donald in the parking lot of the Marion Hy-Vee on April 21. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — An Arizona man is suing Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden for “wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution” in a robbery that was committed last year in Linn County, while the man was living in Arizona and hadn’t lived in Iowa since 2012, according to the lawsuit filed this week in federal court.

Joseph Rosco McBride, who was arrested in Arizona on Aug. 24, sat nearly two months in jail before a woman who witnessed the robbery told police McBride wasn’t involved. The woman identified two other men as being the alleged robbers on Oct. 30, and the next day, Vander Sanden’s office dismissed the charge.

The suit claims Vander Sanden, who approved and filed the first-degree robbery charge, intentionally or recklessly made false sworn statements in a criminal complaint and arrest warrant that led to McBride’s “wrongful arrest and wrongful prosecution.” Vander Sanden made “recklessly false” statements despite having access to evidence showing McBride to be innocent, the suit adds.

The suit demands a trial and asks for damages, including lost wages and future earnings, bail bond expenses and attorney fees.

Vander Sanden said Thursday he couldn’t comment on the suit because he hadn’t been served with a copy of it.

“However, I have every confidence that a fair and impartial adjudication will be had on the merits of the lawsuit in federal court,” Vander Sanden added.

The suit shows Tristian Hermanson told police he was with a woman at 6014 Dean Road SW, when two men came to his door and pushed their way inside his apartment, assaulted him and stole money and his cellphone on Jan. 1, 2017, the suit states. He also said he believed the woman was working with the men to keep him from leaving the apartment but he ran out and called the police.

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Hermanson couldn’t identify the robbers, except to say one was a white man and the other was a light-skinned black man, the lawsuit states. He identified the woman when officers showed him a photo from Facebook and then identified another man from a photo as one of the robbers. A few days later, Hermanson said he conducted his own investigation by using Facebook and gave police another man’s name as the second robber and said he was 90 percent sure that he was the one who assaulted him. It wasn’t McBride, the suit points out.

The suit claims police couldn’t find the second man Hermanson identified but they ran a Facebook search and came up with McBride’s name through a Facebook page. Hermanson then confirmed at the time that McBride was the second robber.

According to the suit, there was no police activity in the case from Jan. 13 through March 17, 2017. In April, police attempted to locate McBride at his last known Iowa address but couldn’t, the suit shows. They did make contact with “L.B.,” a woman who has learning and developmental disabilities since childhood, who claimed she was McBride’s mother and said McBride had lived with her until February of 2017.

On July 25, police requested a warrant for McBride’s arrest, the suit shows. Then, on July 28, Vander Sanden signed the sworn criminal complaint charging McBride with first-degree robbery. The suit contends the complaint had false statements, including that Hermanson positively identified McBride as one of the robbers. Another false statement was that police confirmed through phone records and social media that the woman with Hermanson that day appeared to be involved with the two robbers. The suit contends police didn’t find any connection between McBride and the other alleged robber Hermanson identified.

A warrant went out for McBride’s arrest and he was arrested in Arizona on or about Aug. 24, according to the lawsuit. He was then taken by van to Cedar Rapids, which took nearly 30 days. The trip to Iowa involved McBride staying in jails in Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Missouri. McBride then spent an additional 30 days in custody before being released Oct. 31.

McBride filed an alibi defense on Oct. 9, and had photos of himself in Arizona on Jan. 1, when the robbery occurred, the suit states. The photos, the cellphone records showing the photos, the date and location they were taken provided “irrefutable evidence” that McBride wasn’t in Iowa when Hermanson was assaulted.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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