Portland Oregon Jury awards $82,000 after Woman is arrested when asking Police for a Business Card


A Multnomah County Oregon jury awarded a 33-year-old woman $82,000 Thursday, saying they wanted to send Portland police a message: Hand over a business card the next time a citizen asks for one.

Several jurors who spoke to The Oregonian after the verdict in Multnomah County Circuit Court said police weren’t dealing with an urgent or dangerous situation on the evening of Feb. 13, 2009 — when Shei’Meka Newmann questioned what she thought was an unnecessarily rough arrest of a fellow MAX rider. It would have taken only a few seconds for an officer to hand Newmann a card, jurors said.

“I think that police need to be reminded that it’s part of their job to de-escalate and defuse situations,” said juror Chris Bolles.

Instead, jurors say police overreacted to Newmann’s queries.

After Newmann saw Officer Aaron Dauchy pull a 29-year-old black man off the train and handcuff him on the ground, she asked him why the man was under arrest. Dauchy asked her why it was her business.

She responded that she was a concerned citizen, to which Dauchy replied he didn’t have to tell her unless she was the man’s attorney.

Newmann then asked Dauchy’s partner, Officer Jim Sandvik, for a business card. But he refused, took her ID, then said he planned to exclude her from TriMet.

Newmann testified said that she said she’d be fine because she can drive her car to work. And that when she stepped toward the officer to read the name off his uniform and jot it down on a piece of paper, Sandvik struck her in the upper chest. He also twisted her arm so hard she thought it was going to break, before handcuffing her, she said.

She was taken to jail and released early the next morning with no money, cellphone or shoelaces.

Sandvik, however, told a very different story. He said Newmann was screaming, angry and demanding — and had approached him from behind as he was trying to deal with four drunken men. Sandvik also said Newmann ignored repeated lawful orders to get back.

Deputy City Attorney Jim Rice argued that officers have a legitimate reason to tell civilians to stand back when they approach from behind — there’s a risk the civilian might grab an officer’s gun or stab the officer from behind.

“If people don’t comply … there is a consequence,” Rice said.

What’s more, Rice said, “You don’t have a right to a card when you want it. You have a right to the card if it doesn’t impede law enforcement.”

Jurors, however, said they watched minutes of TriMet video, which showed multiple officers standing around doing nothing much.

Newmann also testified that she never saw Sandvik talking to four drunken men.

Part of her testimony was backed up by Officer Paul Valdez, who testified Newmann was polite and didn’t do anything that could be considered interfering with an officer, which was what she was charged with doing.

Rice argued that Newmann had a distorted view of what happened that night: For one, video didn’t show Officer Dauchy pulling the man off the train as roughly as Newmann described. That man has been arrested 117 times — mostly for minor misdeeds such as not paying MAX fare or disorderly conduct — and he wasn’t supposed to be riding MAX that night because he had been excluded.

Newmann’s attorney, Greg Kafoury, said he understands the police officers’ “incredible frustration” with such a repeat low-level offender. And that despite the city’s argument that Newmann overreacted to what she saw, “it doesn’t really matter. She has a right to ask for a card,” Kafoury said.

Kafoury said the disrespectful treatment of Newmann doesn’t do much to help relations between the young black community and police.

The criminal case against Newmann was dismissed when Sandvik didn’t show up to court. He said he had a migraine headache.

Newmann said she was hesitant to sue but did so because the students she mentors encouraged her to stand up for what is right.

Newmann was bounced between eight group and foster homes as a pre-teen and teen. She graduated from Benson Polytechnic High School as a star varsity athlete with a 3.8 GPA. She’s been a foster mom and taught Sunday school. She also has worked as the mailroom administrator at Wieden+Kennedy for years.

In 2007, she was given the mayor’s Spirit of Portland Award for her volunteer work with Jefferson High School students during her lunch breaks.

Her attorneys — Kafoury and his son, Jason Kafoury — describe Newmann as an upstanding citizen who has a passion for helping disadvantaged youth and young adults. After her arrest, her reputation suffered when some church members gave her the cold shoulder and parents pulled their children away from her.

“It takes great courage for a citizen to stand up to the power of police,” said Greg Kafoury. “But aside from Shei’Meka’s integrity, we salute Officer Valdez” and other officers who could have testified for the city but didn’t.

The jury found 10-2 that police committed battery against Newmann, and that she was falsely arrested and maliciously prosecuted.

By Aimee Green, The Oregonian By Aimee Green, The Oregonian
Follow me on Twitter @o_aimee

JURIES are the answer to government dishonesty, abuse, and corruption.  William M. Windsor


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