A fired West Linn police sergeant has been criminally charged for his involvement in the 2017 wrongful arrest of Michael Fesser, according to the Oregon Department of Justice.
The state Justice Department charged Anthony Reeves with first degree official misconduct, as first reported by The Oregonian/OregonLive. Official misconduct is a Class A misdemeanor. The Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office found Reeves colluded with former Chief Terry Timeus to arrest Fesser as a favor to Eric Benson, Fesser’s then-boss and Timeus’ friend.
Fesser, who is Black, had previously complained about a hostile workplace, citing multiple incidents of racism directed at him.
“It appears the [West Linn Police Department’s] involvement in this investigation was driven by Chief Timeus’ personal friendship with Mr. Benson,” the Clackamas County district attorney’s investigation said. “Timeus personally assigned this investigation to Det. Reeves shortly after he was contacted by Mr. Benson, and Det. Reeves almost immediately began engaging in unprofessional and questionable interactions with Mr. Benson.”
The DA’s investigation found Reeves illegally surveilled Fesser, exchanged and deleted racist texts with Fesser’s boss, and withheld evidence.
Those text messages “include racial epithets and slurs, derogatory and offensive language, references to numerous witnesses about them being ‘dirty,’ insecurity about the investigation, and a strong motive to fabricate these allegations to avoid civil liability in a racial discrimination lawsuit,” the investigation found.
In February 2020, the city of West Linn agreed to pay Fesser $600,000 to settle a lawsuit. Benson and his company, A&B Towing, paid Fesser $415,000 to settle a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. The city of West Linn fired Reeves in June 2020 after the district attorney said he would not call him as a witness in any case he investigated.
Clackamas County District Attorney John Wentworth asked the Oregon DOJ to conduct an independent review of the multiple investigations into the incident, according to DOJ spokesperson Kristina Edmunson.
Edmunson said the DOJ Criminal Division reviewed investigations by the FBI, the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office, the West Linn Police Department, the Portland City Auditor, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, and individuals who had brought civil suits in the matter.
Last February, federal prosecutors declined to charge the officers involved in targeting Fesser, saying they couldn’t prove the arrest violated his civil rights or that their actions were willful.
“Oregon DOJ will not be filing any additional state criminal charges related to this matter,” Edmunson said.