Dillon officer sues Silverthorne police chief and former DA
March 18, 2013
A Dillon police officer who beat an assault charge last year is suing the Silverthorne police chief and others, claiming the criminal case against him was an act of revenge for remarks he’d made criticizing Silverthorne authorities.
Officer Brian Brady is seeking damages for emotional distress, loss of reputation and humiliation after he says several local officials, including Silverthorne police chief Mark Hanschmidt and former District Attorney Mark Hurlbert conspired to falsely accuse him of using excessive force during an arrest and bring criminal charges against him.
“The defendants’ conduct is so outrageous that it shocks the conscience, offends the notions of fairness and is offensive to human dignity …” the complaint filed in district court states. “The defendants did more than simply allow a weakly supported prosecution to proceed, they engaged in a purposeful conspiracy to manufacture and falsely formulate a pretense of probable cause against officer Brady to make him an innocent scapegoat.”
Brady was charged with third-degree assault on a minor and official oppression after he allegedly hit a juvenile suspect who was handcuffed and seated in the back seat of a patrol vehicle in December, 2010.
A judge tossed the case out in 2011, saying prosecutors made multiple mistakes in the pre-trial procedures.
The defendants, who include the Town of Silverthorne, the district attorney’s office and several individuals, have not yet filed a response, but Hurlbert and Silverthorne officials denied the claims in the suit.
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“The allegations are completely false,” Hurlbert said. “He alleges that there was some vast conspiracy between chief Hanschmidt and I, which is completely untrue.”
The suit claims the defendants violated Brady’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and abused the judicial process to convict Brady or get him fired from the Dillon Police Department.
“The Town of Silverthorne intends to defend itself vigorously against the claims brought by Dillon officer Brian Brady,” Silverthorne spokesman Ryan Hyland stated in an email. “The town categorically denies the allegations and any liability asserted in the lawsuit. The town has thoroughly investigated the allegations in the complaint and has found them to be completely without merit. In accordance with town practice, it would be inappropriate for the town to comment in detail regarding the claims, to ensure that all parties are accorded their rights under the law.”
Hurlbert said both prosecutors and law enforcement officers have governmental immunity from civil litigation.
“The district attorney and law enforcement generally have immunity from any civil suit as long as we are acting in our capacity,” Hurlbert said. “As long as we are doing what we do.”
Brady claims the criminal charges were retribution for “harsh” comments he made in September of 2010 while eating dinner at the now-closed Village Inn restaurant in Silverthorne.
Brady reportedly called Silverthorne Police Officer Vince Knapp a “coward” and questioned chief Hanschmidt’s ability to lead his department, according to the complaint.
Other patrons in the restaurant apparently heard Brady’s criticism and it got back to Silverthorne authorities. The lawsuit complaint alleges Hanschmidt was angry and called then-Dillon police chief Joe Wray, telling him to investigate and discipline Brady for his statements.
Two months later, Brady was dispatched to support Silverthorne officers, including Knapp, in an attempted armed robbery call involving a juvenile suspect. When officers took the 16-year-old into custody, he reportedly became combative and showed signs of a drug overdose, according to court documents.
Brady claims he used a well-known “pressure point control tactic” to subdue the teen as he struggled and attempted to bite Brady.
But Knapp would later report Brady hit the suspect in the head while he was compliant and handcuffed in the backseat of a patrol vehicle.
The district attorney’s office investigated the incident and filed charges against Brady a few weeks later. Brady pleaded not guilty and the case was headed to a trial before a judge.
But in discovery – a pre-trial process in which the defense and prosecution are expected to share all the information they have with one another – different versions of a report were provided to the defense.
The lawsuit alleges prosecutors also ignored evidence that cleared Brady of all charges.
“Following the arrest, it was alleged officer Brady used excessive force during the arrest,” Wray stated in a press release at the time. “An internal investigation showed officer Brady did not violate any department policies or state laws.”
The suit also claims the Silverthorne police changed or destroyed a video recording of the teen’s arrest, which contradicts Knapp’s version of the events of that night. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation looked into the allegation last year and cleared the Silverthorne Police Department of any wrongdoing.
A judge characterized the case as a feud between police departments, with one defending the officer accused and the other backing his accuser.
“My officer was trying to do the right thing and made a report,” Hanschmidt told the Summit Daily last year. “Joe (Wray) is standing by his officer, which he should, and I’m standing by my officer, which we should.”
It is common practice for law enforcement agencies in Summit County to work together, often providing backup and support to one another on calls.
Brady is seeking damages for pain and suffering and economic losses as well as punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and interest, although no exact amount is named in the complaint.