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posted Friday, January 8, 2020 - Volume 49 Issue 02
Judge dismisses SPD lawsuit against Kshama Sawant "with prejudice"
Section One
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Judge dismisses SPD lawsuit against Kshama Sawant "with prejudice"

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant filed by two Seattle police officers.

In a December 29 order, US District Judge Marsha Pechman noted that Seattle Police Department (SPD) officers Michael Spaulding and Scott Miller have now filed four different versions of the suit against Sawant and availed themselves of an appeal to the 9th Circuit. She dismissed the latest suit "with prejudice," meaning that the officers cannot refile their complaints.

The two officers shot and killed Che Taylor in 2016. In a speech, Sawant characterized the action as a "brutal murder" but did not name the officers responsible. Nevertheless, they sued her for "damaging their reputation."

Sawant represents Seattle's 3rd City Council District (Capitol Hill, Montlake, the Central District, and Madison Park). She was first elected in 2013 and reelected in 2015 and 2019.

Judge Pechman handled all four iterations of the lawsuit, initially dismissing the police allegation in March 2019.

The officers then appealed to the 9th Circuit, which allowed them to file an amended suit. Pechman then dismissed that complaint and yet another one, before issuing her final ruling on December 29.

Sawant could not have injured the officers, the judge ruled, because she never named them.

"Taken in their full quoted context, the broad statements do not single out individual police officers or speak to labeling specific officers as 'murderers,'" Pechman wrote.

"The Court finds that leave to amend would be futile....and further litigation prejudicial to Defendant [Sawant]."

Daniel Brown, the attorney representing the officers, said they will appeal again. "The trial judge erred again, and the forthcoming appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (yet again) will confirm the judge's error," he said in an email to the Seattle Times.

Sawant's attorney, Dmitri Iglitzin, said he isn't surprised that the officers wished to appeal, but he pointed out that the 9th Circuit has already affirmed Pechman's earlier dismissal.

Sawant said in a statement that Pechman's ruling was "a victory for the Black Lives Matter movement, working people, socialists, and my council office. The police lawsuit against my office is just one in a series of attacks by the ruling class, whose interests the police defend under this deeply unequal system."

Spaulding and Miller killed Taylor on February 21, 2016.

They say they were performing surveillance outside a Wedgwood home when Taylor arrived, then left the scene, then returned. According to the officers, they believed he was armed and attempted to arrest him for being a felon in possession of a gun.

During the arrest, the officers shot him, claiming later they believed they saw him reaching for a gun.

The only weapon found at the scene, a handgun, was found under debris beneath the passenger seat of the vehicle Taylor had been in.

His family later sued the City of Seattle for wrongful death and won a $1.5 million settlement.

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