The city has settled the last remaining claim for false arrest involving former Corvallis police officer Dave Cox, who resigned under a cloud after a string of complaints for unfounded DUII citations.
Carl Feher accepted $9,500 earlier this month to settle a lawsuit filed two years ago in U.S. District Court in Eugene. The settlement will be paid by the city’s insurance carrier.
“After depositions, negotiations opened up and we came to some common ground,” said Feher’s attorney, Dan Rayfield of Nelson & MacNeil in Albany. “We came to the conclusion it was in neither party’s interest to take the case to trial.”
Feher was pulling up in front of his Corvallis home shortly after midnight on June 19, 2006, when Officer Cox pulled him over for expired tags. Smelling alcohol on Feher’s breath, Cox asked if he’d been drinking. Feher said he’d had two beers earlier in the evening.
After putting Feher through a field sobriety test, Cox arrested him for driving under the influence and took him to the Benton County Jail. At the jail, police reports of the incident show, Feher passed a breath test for alcohol and a trained examiner found no evidence of drug use.
Cox cited Feher for DUII-drugs anyway. A urine test later came back negative for narcotics.
On Thursday, Feher told the Gazette-Times he harbors no ill will toward Cox.
“I think he reached a conclusion that was inaccurate but one he was allowed to reach because of the way the system is set up,” he said. “The thing about field sobriety tests that bothers me is there’s a lot of false positives.”
Feher’s was the fourth and final financial claim against the city stemming from DUII arrests made by Cox. The first two, both from 2004, never got to court, settling for $2,500 and $3,000, respectively.
Last year, in a case dating from 2007, the city settled a federal lawsuit filed by Brian Noakes for $64,900.
Rayfield, who was also the attorney in that case, said the damages were higher in part because a wrinkle in Oregon law at the time did not allow drunken driving arrests to be expunged, even if the charges were dropped or the motorist was acquitted.
“Brian Noakes was going to have a permanent arrest record,” Rayfield said. “He was going to have to deal with that for the rest of his life.”
Since then — in part because of publicity surrounding the Noakes case — the law has been changed.
Feher said he has no complaints about the dollar amount in his case. He’s just happy to put the episode behind him.
“There’s no way to judge justice, I suppose, but we reached an agreement I’m satisfied with,” Feher said. “It was nice just to close that whole business. We’re working on applying to get that off my record, so we’ll just move on from there.”
Officer Cox made hundreds of DUII arrests in just six years with the Corvallis Police Department, a record that earned him glowing performance reviews and a statewide award.
But complaints of unfounded DUII arrests led to an internal investigation, and Cox resigned from the department on Nov. 1, 2007.
He later moved to Idaho, where he opened a private investigation agency that specializes in defending people charged with driving under the influence in court.
Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.