Linn County pays $285,000 settlement to Arizona man for wrongful arrest in Cedar Rapids robbery

The Linn County Courthouse on May’s Island in downtown Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, August 28, 2012. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
The Linn County Courthouse on May’s Island in downtown Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, August 28, 2012. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — An Arizona man who sued Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden and the county for “wrongful arrest” won a $285,000 settlement from the county Wednesday after spending 68 days in jail for a robbery he didn’t commit.

The lawsuit asserted Joseph Rosco McBride, who was arrested Aug. 24 in Arizona, sat nearly two months in jail before a witness told police that McBride hadn’t been involved in a Jan 1, 2017, robbery in Cedar Rapids. He hadn’t lived in Iowa since 2012, according the lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court.

On Oct. 30, the witness identified two other men as being the alleged robbers. The next day, Vander Sanden’s office dismissed the charge against McBride, but by then he had already been jailed for 68 days.

Linn County Board of Supervisors Chairman John Harris said McBride signed the settlement late Wednesday.

A federal court document shows the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice — meaning McBride cannot refile it — on Wednesday.

Tom Frerichs, McBride’s attorney, didn’t return a message. Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden couldn’t be reached.

The suit said 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 the “wrongful arrest and wrongful prosecution.”

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The suit states that Tristian Hermanson told police he was with a woman Jan. 1, 2017, at 6014 Dean Road SW when two men came to his door, pushed their way in, attacked him and stole money and his cellphone. He 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.

Hermanson later conducted his own investigation using Facebook, and gave police another man’s name as the second robber. He was 90 percent sure that this was the man who attacked him, But it wasn’t McBride, the suit said.

The suit alleged police couldn’t find the man Hermanson had identified but ran a Facebook search of their own and came up with McBride.

Hermanson then told police, according to the suit, that McBride was the second robber.

McBride was arrested in Arizona in late August. He was taken by van to Cedar Rapids, which took nearly 30 days. The trip involved him staying in jails in Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Missouri, the suit said. McBride then spent an additional 30 days in custody before being released Oct. 31.

McBride filed time-stamped photos showing he was in Arizona on the same day the Cedar Rapids robbery occurred.

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

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