Olympia agrees to pay activist $10,000 to settle OPD lawsuit

Staff writerMarch 6, 2014 

The city of Olympia has agreed to pay a local activist $10,000 to settle his lawsuit alleging the Olympia Police Department violated his civil rights and falsely arrested him during an anti-police march through downtown in April 2010.

Paul French, 29, pleaded guilty pursuant to an Alford plea to a single count of third-degree assault of a police officer in June 2010, after his arrest during the march. In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but the plea counts as a conviction and carries the same penalties in the eyes of the court.

French was sentenced to three months of work release at the Thurston County Jail, according to his felony judgment and sentence.

According to French's lawsuit against OPD, Olympia Police Officer Sean Lindros falsely claimed French struck him in the face while attempting to arrest a woman who was part of the march on April 8, 2010.

According to court papers, Lindros was "struck on the left side of his face just above his cheekbone," as Lindros was attempting to make an arrest. Lindros identified a masked man, identified him as French, and arrested him, court papers state.

French has written extensively of his experiences during, and after his arrest in the Olympia publication Works in Progress. In a Jan. 12 Works in Progress article, French wrote that in a police report, Lindros misidentified the color of a bandana he was wearing, and that Lindros suffered no visible marks or bruises after the alleged assault.

"I was charged with assault, even though I was simply engaging in my First Amendment right to protest and in spite of the fact that I was not in a location where I could have physically struck Lindros," French wrote.

French also wrote that he was severely traumatized by his jail sentence and suffered a nervous breakdown.

French's lawsuit also alleged that Thomas Rudd, Force Protection director for Joint Base Lewis-McChord sent former Olympia Police Cmdr. Tor Bjornstad an email tipping Olympia police off in advance about the march.

Rudd was the boss of former JBLM civilian force protection employee John Towery, who has been accused of infiltrating an Olympia anti-war group under an assumed name and monitoring their activities.

Towery is a defendant in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by members of the Olympia anti-war group, Olympia Port Militarization Resistance, or OlyPMR. The lawsuit involving Towery and Rudd's activities is scheduled to go to trial in June.

In French's lawsuit that recently settled, French's attorney Larry Hildes wrote that, judging by Rudd's email to Bjornstad, "It has now become clear that Rudd kept right on gathering information on activists in Olympia," even after Towery was unmasked.

French's lawsuit also stated that Rudd was giving information about Olympia activists "to the Olympia Police Department for the them to act on, either alone or in conjunction with the Army."

French's jury trial in his federal civil rights lawsuit was scheduled to begin Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

Reached by telephone Thursday, French said he still wants to get his conviction for assaulting the OPD officer expunged.

"I was railroaded by a reactionary judge who cut the legs out from under my case by ruling which issues could be discussed at trial," French said. "Justice will be served once I get this false conviction expunged from my record, and I can pursue my journalistic career without the stigma of being a violent felon."

 

 

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445; jpawloski@theolympian.com

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