The federal investigation of the city of West Linn's role in the controversial arrest and prosecution of a black Portland man began at least five days before it was publicly announced, the Portland Tribune and West Linn Tidings have learned.
The proof lies in a Feb. 14 federal demand letter, or subpoena, obtained under Oregon's records law. It was sent to West Linn demanding records be produced to federal prosecutors, and it bears the name of an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation apparently assigned to the case.
News of the investigation went public on Wednesday, Feb. 19, when the district attorneys for Multnomah and Clackamas counties issued a joint statement confirming that U.S. Attorney Billy Williams would lead a criminal investigation into the Michael Fesser case, which the city of West Linn recently paid $600,000 to settle.
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This is part of a series of articles related to Terry Timeus and the 2017 false arrest of Michael Fesser. Click here to follow the story from the beginning
The federal probe could further pry open past secrets of the West Linn Police Department that began to surface thanks to the discrimination lawsuit filed by Fesser.
Fesser, an African American man from Portland, had irked a friend of former Chief Terry Timeus, Fesser's employer Eric Benson, by complaining of racist comments and discrimination in the workplace. That caused Timeus to launch an investigation involving at least three police officers then working for West Linn, apparently intended to torpedo any lawsuit by Fesser.
On Feb. 13, The Oregonian reported on the settlement and underlying story.
Oregon U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, Jeff Merkley and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer called for a federal investigation.
On the following day, West Linn Mayor Russ Axelrod and the West Linn City Council followed suit with their own request.
But it turns out U.S. Attorney Billy Williams already had launched his investigation by Valentine's Day, five days before news of the probe surfaced.
On Friday, Feb. 21, in response to a records request by the Portland Tribune and West Linn Tidings, West Linn officials released the federal demand for documents that it received a week before.
The subpoena demands the city produce the following:
• All personnel and disciplinary files related to Sgt. Tony Reeves, Lt. Michael Stradley, Det. Michael Boyd and Chief Terry Timeus.
• All records related to Michael Fesser in possession of the city, including emails, records of the criminal investigation, related communications and any follow-up investigations by the department.
• All West Linn police policies and procedures.
The federal subpoena gives the city until March 17 to produce all the documents.
On Thursday, the West Linn Tidings and Portland Tribune reported that a long-secret 100-page report probing allegations of racism and criminal misconduct by Timeus was never shared with members of the City Council.
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