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Old 12th February 2020, 07:52 PM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Gulf Coast
Posts: 25,013
Complaining about racial discrimination at work while black

Michael Fesser is a 48-year-old African-American man who lives in Portland, Oregon, and worked for a time for a towing company in that city called A&B Towing. After having some problems with his coworkers making racist and discriminatory comments toward him, Fesser made the mistake of bringing his concerns about his working environment to his boss, company owner Eric Benson.

Fearful of a future discrimination lawsuit, rather than do anything about the racism Benson instead contacted an old fishing buddy, Terry Timeus, the chief of police in West Linn, a Portland suburb in a neighboring county. Benson told Chief Timeus that he felt his towing company should have made some more money than it had in recent vehicle auctions. Fesser's job with the company was to manage its used vehicle inventory, including conducting the auctions, and Benson suggested that Fesser might be skimming the auction proceeds. He claimed that Portland police wouldn't help him (it is actually unknown whether he ever contacted the Portland police with these concerns at all), so despite the fact that Fesser did not live in West Linn, neither did the towing company operate in nor the auctions take place in West Linn, and in fact West Linn isn't even in the same county as Portland where the supposed crimes would've been taking place, Timeus agreed to have the West Linn police begin investigating Fesser for theft.

The case was given to a West Linn detective, Tony Reeves, who arranged without a warrant to have Fesser's civilian co-workers secretly record conversations with him at work (in Portland) and also to be given live access to the company's security cameras. None of the recordings produced any evidence, however despite lacking probable cause Reeves made the decision to have Fesser arrested anyway, which he arranged in cooperation with Portland PD's gang-enforcement unit (since the arrest had to be made in Portland, because Fesser never set foot in West Linn).

Text messages between Benson and Reeves during the investigation are highly revealing:

As the surveillance went on, Benson and Reeves exchanged sexually explicit and homophobic banter, referencing themselves and the police chief, and made racist comments about Fesser, their text messages revealed.

At one point, Benson told Reeves that he regretted Fesser’s arrest wasn’t going to happen in Clackamas County because he had hoped to “make sure he was with some real racist boys.”

Benson added: “Dreams can never come true I guess” and followed up, writing, “Oh did I say that? I’m a bad person. I have some anger issues going on with him right now.”

At another point, Benson sent Reeves a photo of his dog. Reeves messaged, “Hope Fesser doesn’t get her in the law suit.” Benson wrote back, “Hahaha. She is not a fan of that type of folk. She is a wl (West Linn) dog.”

Although Reeves later admitted that officers hadn’t found any signs of wrongdoing by Fesser during the surveillance, he told another West Linn officer, along with five Portland officers, to stop Fesser as he headed home from work that day about 5 p.m.

“My game my rules,” Reeves wrote to the tow company’s owner just before police moved in.

Reeves continued in texts to Benson: “It’s better that we arrest him before he makes the complaint (of race discrimination). Then it can’t be retaliation.”
Fesser was arrested, but released the same day, and the Multnomah County (Portland) prosecutors declined to pursue any charges. That was in February of 2017.

Seven months later in September, Fesser did indeed file a racial discrimination lawsuit, in Portland, against A&B Towing. In response, Benson started leaning into his West Linn police friends to pressure the Multnomah County prosecutors to reinstate the theft charge, which they did, and Fesser was indicted for theft in November, based largely on testimony from Benson, Detective Reeves, and a third West Linn officer who remembered that Fesser used to hang out with "gang types" in the late 80's/90's. Fesser was then told that the charges would be dropped if he dropped his discrimination suit against his former company.

Nearly a year after Fesser’s arrest, his lawyers finally received the damning text messages between Benson, the tow company owner, and Reeves, the West Linn detective. They came through an exchange of evidence in Fesser’s suit against A&B Towing.

“Only after he received the text messages did he understand that racism, cronyism and impropriety of the officer’s conduct and motivations,” Fesser’s lawyer wrote in court documents. “And only after he received the texts were all criminal charges precipitously dropped.”
Fesser won a settlement in his discrimination suit, and filed a federal civil rights complaint against the West Linn police. Amazingly, West Linn PD's defense strategy is asserting that the federal complaint is invalid because the discrimination settlement Fesser won against A&B Towing included a no-further-action clause, which they assert covers the West Linn Police too because they were "acting as agents of the tow company" during the false arrest which...honestly, I never knew police could magically transform into private detectives in the middle of the duty day like that, but there you go.

The federal suit continues; meanwhile, the Clackamas County (where West Linn is) DA's office has announced an investigation into the West Linn police department.

Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office will conduct a full review of the wrongful arrest case of Portland resident Michael Fesser by West Linn police to determine if any of the officers involved committed crimes in the county and whether any other action should be taken to avoid putting future cases in jeopardy, District Attorney John Foote said Wednesday.

"We want to look at everything,'' Foote said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Chris Owen will supervise the investigation and will review the full civil case record and Multnomah County arrest and prosecution files, Foote said.

The county prosecutor’s office also will determine if credibility concerns raised in the case about officers involved in Fesser’s arrest should trigger a so-called Brady notice, an obligation under the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brady v. Maryland that requires prosecutors to disclose to defense lawyers any material that could impeach the credibility of a government witness.
Ouch! That last one's gonna sting in future cases, if it happens.

My summary of the events doesn't even encompass the totality of the objectionable interactions Fesser had with the West Linn police during this case, so I highly suggest reading the article at the first link to get the whole story. It was that article which prompted the Clackamas County DA to begin investigating the West Linn police.
--- Carlos S., 2002

Last edited by Checkmite; 12th February 2020 at 08:02 PM.
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Old 12th February 2020, 09:07 PM   #2
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Oregon is a pretty consistently racist place. It's not quite as bad in Portland & Eugene, but outside of there it gets risky fast. I'd venture to say it's worse than Washington and goodness knows we have some pretty awful issues here, particularly with the police.
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Old 12th February 2020, 10:23 PM   #3
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Some local perspective: West Linn is a fairly high-end suburb of Portland. For example, it's where Trailblazers (NBA basketball players) often live because there are large 7-figure homes on very large plots of land.

It's also where I had the police called on me for walking down the street and an officer wanted to see my ID with absolutely no cause.

It thus doesn't surprise me that their cops are racist scum.

Last edited by Babbylonian; 12th February 2020 at 10:25 PM.
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