AP NEWS

Judge denies Illinois man’s case alleging police retaliation

January 9, 2020 GMT

URBANA, Ill. (AP) — A federal judge denied an Illinois man’s complaint that accused police officers of retaliating against him after he settled a separate excessive force lawsuit against a former officer from another city.

Benjamin Mann and his girlfriend, Samantha Wade, filed a lawsuit alleging Urbana police harassed Mann after he reached a $225,000 settlement with the city of Champaign over a white former officer’s use of excessive force against Mann, who is black. The current lawsuit, filed in 2017, sought damages for Mann and Wade on 11 counts, including retaliation, false arrest, fabrication of evidence and illegal search.

Two of those counts were dismissed in December. Last Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Eric Long rejected the remaining counts, arguing that there’s no evidence to suggest the accused officers retaliated against Mann.

“There is no evidence the Officers considered (or even cared) that Mann was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the Champaign Police Department,” Long concluded in a 37-page opinion.

Mann’s attorney, Shneur Nathan, didn’t respond to the News-Gazette ’s request for comment.

The Champaign Police Department removed officer Matt Rush after Mann filed a lawsuit alleging that Rush beat him on March 16, 2014. Police had responded to a call about a dispute between Mann and Wade at their apartment that day. Mann said at the time that his injuries were so severe he needed to hospitalized and was out of work for five months.

Rush, whom two other people have accused of excessive force, received a $50,000 separation agreement from Champaign that permanently severed his employment in the city.

The federal lawsuit that was rejected last week stemmed from two interactions Mann had with police in 2017.

The first was on March 19, when Mann said officers arrested him and his girlfriend in their apartment following a car crash, according to the judge’s summary. Mann said officers pushed him to the ground after he reached for his pants pocket.

Long argued that while Mann has said he was putting his fake tooth in his pocket, the officer presumed he could’ve been reaching for a weapon, as dispatch had notified officers that one may be present. The couple was arrested, though the charges of resisting arrest were later dismissed.

“Under any view of the facts, it was reasonable for the officers to use the force they used,” the judge wrote.

The second police interaction that Mann cited occurred July 30, 2017, when his neighbor called 911 because he heard noises that indicated domestic violence, according to Long. After learning that Mann had a warrant for his arrest, officers forced entry into his apartment and arrested him. The charges related to this arrest were also dismissed.

The judge said the officers’ conduct at the time was also reasonable.