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Black man gets $600K after his White boss set him up to be falsely arrested

jail cell

Photo credit: / Ana Aguirre Perez

A Black man won a $600K settlement after his White boss set him up to be falsely arrested. The incident occurred in West Linn, Oregon at A&B Towing, according to The Oregonian.

Michael Fesser, 48, of Portland, Oregon raised concerns to his boss, Eric Benson, owner of A&B Towing, that he was being racially discriminated against at work. According to court documents, Fesser said the discrimination included coworkers’ calling him racial slurs.

After Fesser raised his concerns, Benson contacted his friend, West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus. Benson made false allegations against Fesser that he had stolen from the company.

Timeus reportedly told two West Linn detectives to use audio and video equipment to watch Fesser while he was at work on Feb. 25, 2017. The suit alleged that the surveillance was “conducted without a warrant or probable cause” and did not result in any evidence that Fesser was stealing from the company.

Text messages that were obtained during the legal proceedings revealed that detective Tony Reeves and Benson conspired to have Fesser arrested.

In one message, Reeves said Fesser should be arrested before he went further with his racial discrimination complaint against the company. Reeves told another West Linn officer, along with five Portland officers, to arrest Fesser while he was on his way home from work.

West Linn police ordered Fesser out of his vehicle and took his cell phone and money. They also took a letter Fesser had written to his boss documenting the alleged racial discrimination he faced at work.

Fesser spent about eight hours at the police station before he was released on his own recognizance. He was later contacted by West Linn police to come to the station to retrieve some of his belongings. While he was there, officers informed Fesser that he had been fired from his job and to not return to the company’s property.

In September 2017, Fesser filed a lawsuit against Benson and A&B Towing, alleging racial discrimination and retaliation.

In November 2017, based largely on grand jury testimony by Reeves and Benson and statements from two witnesses,  Fesser was indicted on five counts of first-degree theft, according to court records.

One year after Fesser’s arrest, his lawyers retrieved text messages between Benson, the tow company owner, and Reeves, the West Linn detective. They came through an exchange of evidence in Fesser’s suit against A&B Towing. In March 2018, Benson and A&B Towing agreed to pay Fesser $415,000 in damages, wages, and attorney fees to settle his discrimination suit in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

On Feb. 12, it was reported that the city of West Linn negotiated to pay Fesser $600K.