A black man who was the target of unlawful surveillance and a false arrest by police in Oregon in 2017 acting at the request of his employer has received a $600,000 payout for the emotional distress caused.
Michael Fesser, 48, of Portland, Oregon, sued the city of West Linn and several members of its police force in 2018 alleging that the city's police officers carried out unlawful surveillance of him at work after he submitted a complaint about racial discrimination to his employer in February 2017.
After receiving the complaint, his boss Eric Benson asked his fishing buddy, former West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus, to initiate a racially-motivated surveillance of Fesser which led to his false arrest.
Fesser sued for false arrest, malicious prosecution, defamation and invasion of privacy in the summer of 2018, on Tuesday receiving $600,000 in compensation from West Linn in what is thought to be the largest payout for a wrongful arrest in the state.
Michael Fesser, 48, pictured, was falsely arrested in February 2017 after his boss asked the police chief to start an investigation into false theft claims because Fesser filed a racial discrimination complaint about his work place - He was today awarded $600,000
A & B Towing company owner Eric Benson, pcitured, asked his fishing buddy, former West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus, to initiate a racially-motivated surveillance of Fesser
Fesser, a father of eight who now runs a prison ministry and transitional program to support men getting out of prison, was an employee of A&B Towing in Portland in February 2017 when he filed a complaint about racial discrimination in the workplace to his employer Eric Benson.
In retaliation, Benson contacted the former West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus, a fishing buddy of his, and asked him to investigate false allegations that Fesser was stealing from the company.
Fesser had worked for the company since 2004, mostly managing its car auctions.
Timeus engaged his officers to carry out the unlawful investigation, which had no ties to West Linn. They uncovered no wrongdoing or proof of theft but Fesser was still arrested with the aid of Portland police.
Former West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus engaged his officers to carry out unlawful surveillance on Fesser in February 2017
Text messages sent between Benson and Timeus on February 21, 2017, show the police chief telling the business owner that he 'will have your case ready to go before Saturday'.
On February 25, 2017, police conducted the surveillance of Fesser at his job, providing real-time updates to Benson about his actions at an auction.
In the suit filed by Fesser in 2018, the police officers were accused of making an unlawful recording of Fesser at work without a warrant or court order, arresting him without probably cause and seizing his cash, phone, and a letter outlining the racial discrimination complaint, also without a search warrant.
The suit also reveled racist and homophobic texts sent between West Linn police and Benson regarding Fesser during the unlawful investigation.
Fesser says he took legal action against the officers to ensure it doesn't happen to another black man and because the incident left him suffering emotional distress and economic damages having lost his job.
'Ever since that arrest, I was terrified to go to West Linn,' Fesser told The Oregonian.
'This has to be exposed, and it has to stop.'
'This case vividly illustrates a ready willingness on the part of the West Linn police to abuse the enormous power they have been given, and a casual, jocular, old-boy-style racism of the kind that we Oregonians tend to want to associate with the Deep South rather than our own institutions,' said Fesser's lawyer Paul Buchanan.
'He is doing fine,' Buchanan told NBC.
'This was not about money for him. This was about that they should not be allowed to do this.'
West Linn police began investigating Fesser in February 2017 after he raised concerns to Benson about being racially discriminated against at work. According to a separate suit filed by Fesser against his employer in September 2017, he claimed he was the victim of racial slurs in the workplace.
Soon after, Benson called on police chief Timeus and convinced him to carry out surveillance of Fesser based on false allegations that he was stealing from the company.
In his suit filed against the city of West Linn in 2018, Fesser said the theft allegations were false and unsubstantiated.
A text from police chief Timeus to Benson telling him that the