Settlement Proposed in Bozeman Police Excessive Force Lawsuit

By Whitney Bermes – Bozeman Chronicle Staff Writer

The Bozeman Police Department has reached a settlement in a federal lawsuit that claimed excessive force against two of its officers.

In a proposed settlement, the city will pay $150,000 in the 2009 lawsuit filed by Jesse Soheil Verdi against the city of Bozeman, the Bozeman Police Department, the former police chief, a former deputy chief, a former officers and a current officer.

The settlement is awaiting approval of Utah Bankruptcy Court. Verdi, who filed for bankruptcy in Utah and failed o include the lawsuit as an asset, was removed as the plaintiff from the case and replaced by a bankruptcy trustee.

The original suit claimed negligence, assault, battery, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other accusations. The lawsuit stems from a 2007 incident in which Verdi was tased by police. Verdi’s friend called Bozeman police requesting a welfare check on Verdi. Former Sgt. Greg Megargel and current officer Marek Ziegler responded.

Verdi was naked and intoxicated when he answered the door. Officers claimed Verdi suddenly attacked Megargel, and Ziegler tased Verdi in the back. Verdi fell face down onto his deck outside of the apartment, hitting his head and injuring his skull. Verdi’s attorneys say he’s had three brain surgeries to remove excessive blood on his brain and help remedy headaches.

Former police chief Mark Tymrak and former deputy chief Martin Kent were originally named in the suit, but last month U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen dismissed all counts against the two.

The settlement will be covered by the Montana Municipal Inter-local Authority, an insurance pool for cities and towns, including Bozeman. City attorney Greg Sullivan said, despite the proposed settlement, the city stands by its officers.

“We still fully believe the officers did everything right that night in 2007,” Sullivan said. “It’s a business decision.”

While Bozeman police Chief Ron Price was not with the department at that time, Price reviewed the officers’ conduct and is “comfortable with everything they did,” Sullivan said.

Ryan Jackson and Todd Shea, the plaintiff’s attorneys, declined to comment until the settlement is approved.