Washington County awards $625k to man attacked by jail deputy
Washington County has settled out of court with a man attacked by a jail deputy in a March 2018 incident that has ignited a firestorm of controversy.
The county governnment announced Tuesday, June 23, that it had reached an agreement to pay Albert Molina $625,000 to settle his lawsuit against the county.
Molina sued Washington County after Deputy Rian Alden tackled him to the ground while Molina was being booked into jail for allegedly riding his bicycle while drunk. The attack fractured Molina's skull and left him with head trauma.
In a statement, the board condemned Alden's actions "during what should have been a routine booking" and instead resulted in "needless injury and trauma" to 45-year-old Albert Molina and his family.
"For that we are truly sorry," the statement read in part.
The settlement comes as the Washington County District Attorney's Office is expected to seek a felony second-degree assault indictment against Alden for the incident.
Alden was initially indicted June 5 for official misconduct — a misdemeanor that carries up to a year of jail time — after the District Attorney's Office decided to review Alden's actions.
The District Attorney's Office previously decided not to bring criminal charges against Alden after the Sheriff's Office flagged the incident as needing additional review by an outside agency in 2018.
Molina's attorney's recently released video footage of the incident, which shows Alden directing Molina to stand against a wall for a booking photo. Molina can be seen saluting Alden several times while Alden gestures at Molina, appearing to instruct him.
Shortly after, Alden runs at Molina from behind a computer, slams him against the wall, grabs him by the neck and pulls him to the ground. Molina's head is jerked back and strikes the wall as Alden hits him. Three nearby deputies calmly come over and one helps hold Molina facedown. Medical staff arrive seconds later as Molina is held down.
According to a lawsuit filed against the county by Molina's attorneys, the incident left Molina with a fractured skull, a traumatic brain hemorrhage, damage to the tissue near his spine, loss of consciousness, hearing loss and other injuries.
He spent five days in the ICU and 19 days total in the hospital. Medical expenses topped $135,000. Molina's attorneys say he now suffers from permanent injuries.
He had been arrested and charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants for riding his bicycle while drunk.
According to the county board's statement, the Sheriff's Office is reviewing its policies and practices in light of the incident.
In 2018, the District Attorney's Office declined to prosecute Alden, concluding in a September 2018 memo written by former Senior Deputy District Attorney Megan Johnson, "We cannot prove criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt in this matter."
In the memo, Johnson says Molina has no recollection of the event and the few witnesses at the scene were "inconsistent" with what they saw and heard.
"The video is of minimal value because it captures only one view and has no audio feed," Johnson wrote.
Days later, she clarified that there were two video feeds of the booking area that were reviewed.
The District Attorney's Office's decision not to prosecute Alden was informed by an investigation into the incident by Oregon State Police and the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office at the request of the Washington County Sheriff's Office.
None of the agencies that initially reviewed the incident obtained medical records describing Molina's injuries following the incident, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Bracken McKey, who will bring felony charges against Alden before a grand jury Thursday.
Molina's attorney, Jason Kafoury, said it was "ridiculous" the District Attorney's Office initially said the video of his client being attacked by Alden of "minimal value."
Kafoury said the settlement means justice is finally being served for Molina.
"He felt for years that nobody cared about what happened to him," Kafoury said.
He and his client won't be fully satisfied unless Alden is convicted of felony assault charges expected to come before a grand jury Thursday, Kafoury said.
Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton is changing how his office handles cases alleging an officer's use of force, said Stephen Mayer, spokesman for the District Attorney's Office.
Future cases involving uses of force by law enforcement will be handled by the District Attorney's major crimes team made up of the two chief deputy district attorneys and one senior deputy district attorney.
The team will consult with use of force experts outside of the agency employing the officer or deputy whose actions are under review. The team will also obtain any medical records showing injuries to the people involved.
Washington County's response to Molina's lawsuit in 2018 stated Alden was justified in his use of force.
Christopher Gilmore, the county's legal counsel, said Alden acted in self-defense when he responded to Molina's "drunk and disorderly behavior, his verbal statements attempting to solicit a fight, his physical gestures in moving towards Deputy Rian Alden with his fists clenched."
In an incident report written by Alden at the time, Alden said Molina was uncooperative and belligerent, and he believed that Molina was "preparing to fight" based on his body language and him saying the words "what's up."
Prosecutors revived their review of the incident after an email that Alden allegedly sent containing racist statements surfaced.
The Sheriff's Office learned of the email from an anonymous Twitter user who created a post showing the email. The next day, June 1, the Sheriff's Office put Alden on paid administrative leave.
Alden allegedly wrote the email in 2003, four years before he was employed at the Sheriff's Office. Alden also worked for the Malheur County Sheriff's Office from 2004 to 2006.
In the email, the author — purportedly Alden — uses several racial slurs and writes, "Oh, I'm sorry, that was Racist, but I guess I am."
Editor's note: This story has been updated with details about changes to the District Attorney's Office's treatment of cases involving use of force by law enforcement.
The story has also been updated to include comments from Molina's attorney, Jason Kafoury.
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