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Coralville man to receive $390,000 settlement after wrongly accused of impaired driving
Care for a brain injury delayed after he was falsely accused
The cities of Iowa City and Coralville have reached a $390,000 civil settlement with a Coralville man who was wrongly accused of drunken driving even without any evidence of alcohol or drugs in his system — which caused him to lose his apartment and job and delayed treatment for a brain injury.
Anthony Watson sued the two cities and two police officers — Iowa City Officer Travis Graves and Coralville Officer Jeff Reinhard — for negligence resulting in personal injury, false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and malicious prosecution, according to the petition.
The settlement is on the agenda for the Iowa City Council to approve Tuesday. Iowa City will pay half — $195,000 — and Coralville will pay the other half, according to the resolution approving the settlement.
Watson’s lawyer, Marty Diaz, declined to comment last week.
On Dec. 16, 2017, Watson stopped at the Casey’s store on the corner of Dubuque and Market streets to get gas and was approached by Graves, who was investigating a reckless driving incident. The officer hadn’t witnessed it but was sent to that location by a dispatcher who had a report of a reckless driver.
Graves interviewed Watson and asked him to perform field sobriety tests, which he passed. Graves then asked him to take a preliminary breath test, which Watson did and it showed no alcohol use.
The officer was suspicious that Watson might be under the influence of a drug and requested assistance from Reinhard to perform a drug use evaluation at the Iowa City Police Department. Watson agreed to go there for the evaluation, according to the suit.
The evaluation, which is an unscientific and subjective assessment, the lawsuit noted, determined Watson was under the influence of marijuana despite the lack of drug testing.
Watson then agreed to provide a urine specimen, which also came back negative for marijuana or any other drug. But Reinhard and Graves still arrested him for OWI, first offense, a serious misdemeanor. However, Reinhard failed to disclose the results of the urine specimen test in his arrest report.
At the time of arrest, the officers knew they didn’t have probable cause to make the arrest, and also knew Watson was on parole so he would face an additional charge for violating his parole and would likely remain in jail pending his trial, the lawsuit contends.
On Dec. 17, Graves filed his criminal complaint against Watson, which also failed to disclose the lack of breath and urine testing, according to the suit. One of the officers also contacted a parole officer about Watson’s arrest and the parole officer filed a report against Watson for violating his parole.
A criminal charge against Watson was filed Jan. 9, 2018 by the Johnson County Attorney’s Office.
The Coralville Police Department sent Watson’s urine specimen taken on Dec. 16, 2017, for further testing, which came back Feb. 1, 2018. But there was no evidence of drug use, according to the suit.
Watson was finally released from the Johnson County Jail March 6, 2018, after being there since Dec. 16, 2017.
The Johnson County Attorney’s office dismissed the charge against Watson April 9, 2018 for “anticipated problems of proof fatal to the prosecution — breath and toxicology came back negative for alcohol and/or controlled substances.”
As a result of Watson being held in jail for months, he lost his apartment and job and he didn’t get the medical care he needed for a brain injury, the suit contends. He had a seizure and wasn’t immediately taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics where he was eventually admitted and treated for encephalopathy — damage or disease that affects the brain.
The arrest and delay in obtaining medical care resulted in a seizure and caused or contributed to the development of the brain damage, resulting in “immediate physical harm with potential long-term consequences,” the suit stated.
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