A Black man from Portland, Oregon stood up to police and received a $600,000 payout for a wrongful arrest.
Back in 2017, Michael Fesser, 48, filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against A&B Towing. According to The Oreonian, Fesser claimed employees called him racist slurs and “one asked him how he liked a Confederate flag that was fastened to a pickup parked in the tow company’s lot.”
Eric Benson, owner of A&B Towing and Fesser’s boss, asked former West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus, who was his friend, to conduct an unlawful surveillance of Fesser. Benson claimed Fesser, who had worked for A&B Towing since 2004, was stealing from the company.
On Feb. 25, 2017, the West Linn police conducted surveillance of Fesser at his job, using an audio app called “Swann View” along with a live feed from the company’s video surveillance cameras. By 5 p.m. that day, Fresser was arrested at his home by a West Linn police officer and five Portland police officers. He was booked on an aggravated theft allegation. He was released eight hours later after the charges were dropped.
Once Fesser returned to the police station to pick up his belongings, he was informed by the police that he was fired from his job regardless of the fact that there was no evidence that he had stolen from his job. Instead, Fesser believes he was arrested and fired because he spoke out against discriminaiton at his workplace.
According to NBC News, Fesser filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Portland against the city and several members of the West Linn Police Department for “false arrest, malicious prosecution, defamation and invasion of privacy.” The lawsuit also stated surveillance was "conducted without a warrant or probable cause.”
Fesser also filed a lawsuit against A&B Towing, which was settled in March 2018 for $415,000. Recently, the City of West Linn settled, agreeing to pay Fesser $600,000. However, the West Linn Police Department claimed the settlement "is not an admission of liability."
Paul Buchanan, Fesser's attorney, told NBC News his client is pleased the case has been resolved.
“He is doing fine. This was not about money for him. This was about that they should not be allowed to do this."
(Photo by Gregor Fischer/picture alliance via Getty Images)