Archive for Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Judge rejects lawsuit filed in 2004 death

Parents asked for $4 million in suit against deputy, county officials

January 24, 2007

The parents of a Basehor volunteer firefighter have lost a $4 million civil rights battle in federal court.

This week, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil ruled against Basehor residents Marlene and Patrick Richard Moore, who filed a lawsuit a year ago in the death of their son, Jared. They were seeking at least $4 million, after alleging their son's civil rights had been violated when he was killed two years ago.

Jared Moore, a volunteer first-responder and firefighter, was killed in December 2004 as he was driving his personal car a traffic accident scene north of Basehor. His car was struck from behind by Leavenworth County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Peterman, who was responding to the same accident.

In the lawsuit, filed in Kansas City, Kan., the Moores alleged their son's federal rights, as well as their First Amendment rights, were violated.

The Moores sued Peterman, the county commission, former Sheriff Herb Nye and the current sheriff, David Zoellner.

The lawsuit tentatively had been scheduled for trial next month. But the judge ruled the lawsuit should not continue.

According to the judge's 33-page ruling, Peterman was following behind Moore, as both men drove to another accident at 158th and Donahoo. Peterman was traveling between 90 and 94 mph as he approached Moore's vehicle, which was headed north on 155th Street.

Peterman, who had activated his emergency lights, but not his siren, began to pass Moore on the left, as Moore was turning left off 155th Street on Donahoo. When he struck Moore's vehicle, Peterman's patrol car was traveling at 84 to 87 mph. Moore was thrown from his car and died the next day from his injuries.

Peterman apparently didn't know where Donahoo Road was.

"After the accident, Deputy Peterman told another officer that he always confused Donahoo Road with a road north of Donahoo Road," the judge's ruling said. "Deputy Peterman also told a Leavenworth County emergency coordinator that he 'screwed up.'"

Peterman, who continues to serve as a deputy assigned to the county jail, had been charged in Leavenworth County District Court with vehicular homicide but was acquitted by a jury.

The Moores had alleged that Peterman violated their son's Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure. But the judge said, "One restrained accidentally, even recklessly, does not have a constitutional complaint."

She further said, "The facts of this tragic case do not suggest that Deputy Peterman intended to terminate Jared Moore's freedom of movement."

And concerning the Moore's allegation that Peterman violated their son's right to due process, the judge said the couple had not proven their assertions.

The Moores further alleged that unidentified sheriff's deputies had harassed the couple after the accident, hampering their right to free speech afforded in the First Amendment. However, the judge said those deputies were never identified or served with notice of the lawsuit. So she dismissed the claims against them, without prejudice, meaning they could be refiled.

Further claims against the county commission and the former sheriff and the current sheriff also were rejected.

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