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$500,000 Award in Washington Malicious Prosecution Claim

A Washington state federal jury awarded $500,000 to the plaintiff in a civil rights action that alleged malicious prosecution. The suit was brought by Brian Wiederspohn against two Whatcom County Sheriff deputies.

The deputies, Jeremy Freeman and Trevor Vanderveen, went to Wiederspohn’s residence on December 28, 2004, around 8:15 PM to serve an at-risk youth warrant for the arrest of Lenell Standford.

As the deputies entered the home, Wiederspohn blocked the entrance, telling them truthfully he did not know Standford; Wiederspohn knew him as Ryan. The deputies persisted in entering the house, saying they did not need a search warrant. Wiederspohn tried to close the door, but Freeman put his foot in the way.

While holding the front door, someone stepped onto the porch behind Wiederspohn. As he turned, Freeman pinned him between the wall and the door. Once he closed the door, Freeman struck Wiederspohn in the head, put him in a headlock and flipped him over his hip into a kitchen range. The impact broke the range door.

Vanderveen responded by shooting Wiederspohn with a Taser gun, which lodged a probe in his abdomen and penis. Once incapacitated, Wiederspohn was handcuffed and placed in a mud puddle outside his home. When he tried to move, he was again Tasered.

Wiederspohn was charged with Assault in the Third Degree. The charge was based upon “criminal reports containing knowingly or recklessly false allegations: namely, that they had a warrant, that Wiederspohn resisted arrest, that Wiederspohn assaulted Freeman, that he knowingly harbored a juvenile with a warrant,” that he had narrow rickety steps outside his door when it was a concrete ramp.

In its January 30, 2009 verdict, the jury found that Freeman and Vanderveen did not use excessive force in arresting Wiederspohn, but it found for Wiederspohn on the malicious prosecution claim. It awarded $100,000 in damages and $150,000 in punitive damages against both Freemand and Vanderveen. Wiederspohn was represented by Bellingham based attorney, Murphy Eveins. See: Wiederspohn v. Freeman, USDC, W.D. Washington, Case No: C07-2074.

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Related legal case

Wiederspohn v. Freeman