PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The U.S. Attorney’s Office is declining to pursue criminal charges following a wrongful arrest of a Black Portland man in West Linn, officials announced Friday.
Michael Fesser, who said he was targeted by West Linn police officers in February 2017, settled a civil lawsuit with the department last year. A federal investigation into the conduct was opened in February 2020.
On Friday, investigators announced they had concluded they couldn’t prove West Linn officers willfully violated Fesser’s civil rights.
“Willfulness requires proof that an officer acted with the specific intent to do something the law forbids,” a DOJ press release stated. “It is not enough to show that an officer made a mistake, acted negligently, acted by accident or mistake, or even exercised bad judgment.”
West Linn’s police chief was ousted after the civil lawsuit came to light.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer was surprised by the decision. In a statement, he said:
“I find it incredibly upsetting that Trump’s outgoing U.S. Attorney for Oregon has decided that he can’t make a case out the clearly illegal and unjustified arrest of Michael Fesser. However, in two weeks, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which would directly impact cases like this by making it easier for people to prove civil rights violations. Mr. Fesser and all of those who have been wronged by police misconduct deserve justice.”