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District judge tosses lawsuit
Multi-million dollar suit against La Grande, Union County dismissed
District Judge Marco A. Hernandez dismissed a lawsuit naming the City of La Grande and Union County as defendants.
Granting the defendants’ summary judgement motions, the judge found that undisputed evidence shows that officers and entities involved in the 2006 raids on Randy and Rona Lindsey’s home had probable cause to arrest the Lindseys.
According to the opinion issued Tuesday, the basis of malicious prosecution claims in the suit rests on the marijuana-related charges of the case. Hernandez found that prohibiting evidence found during an illegal search “does not apply in subsequent civil challenges.” Evidence found during the search is admissible to determine whether the defendants had probable cause for arrest.
Under the Oregon medical marijuana system and under the license Randy Lindsey possessed during the 2006 search, he was only entitled to possess 1-1/2 pounds of marijuana plus six mature plants, the opinion says.
According to court documents, the medical marijuana license Randy Lindsey had at the time “did not allow Plaintiffs to possess the quantity of marijuana they concede was seized during the search,” which was approximately three pounds.
“I grant the summary judgement motions because putting aside any evidence from the officers, the undisputed evidence in the summary judgement record shows that Defendants had probable cause to arrest Plaintiffs for the marijuana-related crimes based on the evidence they obtained from the search of Plaintiffs’ property,” the judgement reads.
“The city is pleased the case has reached a successful conclusion,” La Grande City Manager Robert Strope said.
The Lindseys said they plan to file an appeal.
Randy and Rona Lindsey filed the suit in November 2010 in connection with two separate incidents at their La Grande home in late January and early February 2006. The January raid resulted in arrests, seizure of marijuana, cash and firearms and the placing of a lien on their home. The charges against the Lindseys were later dismissed and their property recovered.
The lawsuit, which claimed numerous civil rights violations, named the defendants as the City of La Grande, Union County, former La Grande police officers Gary Welberg and Tom Blackman and Cynthia Wyatt, formerly of the Union County Sheriff’s Office.
The first raid at the Lindsey home occurred on Jan. 30, 2006. According to the lawsuit, about 27 officers and deputies, including Welberg and Blackman, were involved. The Lindseys’ complaint asserts that at one point Welberg drew his gun and threatened to shoot Rona Lindsey, and at another point beat Randy Lindsey in the ribs with a phone book. The couple was cited on drug charges and later released.
On Feb. 6, 2006, officers returned to the home with a search warrant looking for any marijuana plants that remained. According to court documents, no plants were recovered. Randy Lindsey was arrested on theft charges, because two firearms recovered in the first raid were stolen, according to court documents. The Lindseys were both indicted by a grand jury on drug and theft charges on Feb. 8, 2006.
Theft charges against the Lindseys were dropped in August 2008 and all remaining charges were dismissed that November.