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

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.comRead more here:

http://www.theolympian.com/2014/03/06/3020101/olympia-agrees-to-pay-activist.html#storylink=cpy

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About Strife Support Committee

Paul French (known as Strife) has been an activist and a hip-hop artist in Olympia, WA for over six years. He has fought against budget cuts, for busker’s rights, engaged in direct action against illegal wars, and raised awareness about the plight of grand jury resisters. In 2009, he released an album called “Love & Rage” and on April 8th, 2010 he was framed for felony assault on an officer at a protest against police brutality. He served two months in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. When he was released from jail he was subjected to a campaign of harassment, given numerous citations by law enforcement who repeatedly singled him out by name. He was contacted by police 12 times and given five tickets in less than a month under various pretexts which sent him further into debt. Despite this repression, he released his first solo album in 2012 entitled “No Honor Among Kings” and traveled the West Coast on a “Peasant Revolt Tour.” In late April 2011, Strife discovered through public records requests that he was being spied on by multiple law enforcement agencies and referred as the “white rapper” in e-mail exchanges. Later that year, he sued the Olympia Police Department for violations of his civil rights and a campaign of profiling, harassment, false arrest and imprisonment. OPD settled out of court to the tune of $10,000 and Strife is using this windfall to cut his next album, "Metamorphosis" coming summer 2015.
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