Maria Morales - who was momentarily charged with fourth-degree assault thanks to an altercation with Seattle police during this year's May Day demonstration only to have the charges dropped by the King Count Prosecutor's Office when exonerating video evidence surfaced - has filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle, its police force, and specifically SPD officers Sonya Fry and Michelle Gallegos.
In Morales' lawsuit, which was filed last week in U.S. District Court and seeks undisclosed punitive damages and attorney's fees, the former EMT says she was falsely imprisoned, roughed up and - most importantly - that her constitutional rights were violated by Seattle police. Adding insult to injury, Morales says she lost her job and subsequently her apartment thanks to the bogus charges she had to spend time, energy and money fighting.
Specifically, Morales' strongly worded lawsuit is aimed at "SPD Officers who, through their intentional conduct and reckless and conscious disregard for the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments, has caused plaintiff to suffer deprivation of her liberty and her civil and constitutional rights, physical injury, and mental and emotional distress."
The Daily Weekly covered charges being dropped against Morales back in August, with Keegan Hamilton reporting:
According to a probable cause statement statement submitted to prosecutors by Seattle police, bike cop Sonya Fry was ordering a crowd to move back when Morales walked up, said "okay bitch," and punched the female officer in the chest with a closed fist. Morales then allegedly kicked another cop in the leg.
SPD's version of events was called into question by amateur video from the scene uploaded to YouTube. The footage seems to show Morales walking past Fry, obeying orders. Then, after a brief verbal exchange, Fry grabs Morales by the shoulders and hair and pulls her down.
On August 17, the charge was abruptly dropped. Dan Donahoe, spokesman for the prosecutor's office, says the video was a factor.
"We reviewed video of the alleged incident and felt that we could no longer prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt so the charge was dismissed," Donohoe says.
Aaron Pelley, Morales' attorney, says prosecutors had no business filing charges in the first place.
"Maria didn't really hit that officer," Pelley says. "There's nothing in my mind that thinks somebody didn't yell at that officer, or she didn't feel somebody hit her. But as far as I can tell, it wasn't my client."
Morales has no criminal record aside from a few traffic tickets. Nevertheless, Pelley says she lost her job as an emergency room technician in Bellevue because of the arrest.
"I don't know that she comes out ahead on all of this," Pelley says. "But we're certainly glad the prosecutors looked at the evidence and decided to dismiss."
Apparently, one of the things that comes out of all of this is a civil lawsuit filed in federal court, which Morales' Bellevue-based attorney Darryl Parker told the Seattle PI Wednesday he plans to serve on the City of Seattle in the coming days.
"It's a complete fabrication, and the reason that we know that is because it was on video," Parker tells the PI of the original charges against his client. "The statement of probable cause that led to her arrest is completely false."
The City Attorney's Office declined to discuss the case with the PI.
Here's how the PI describes Parker's description of Morales' May Day arrest:
According to her attorney's statements to the court, Morales touched the bicycle's handlebar so that she could leave the area, and was immediately pulled into a battery of police bicycles by Fry.
"Morales was swarmed as Fry and other officers flipped her over onto her stomach, pepper sprayed the left side of her face and arm, and put her in two sets of handcuffs," Parker told the court. Morales was then arrested on suspicion of assault.
Having suffered an injury to her hand during the arrest, Morales was booked into King County Jail and held overnight. Staff at a Veterans Affairs clinic later noted her thumb was swollen and that her body, arms and legs were bruised.
Two days after the incident, a Seattle police detective filed a statement with prosecutors recounting Officer Fry's version of events. In it, the detective contended Fry claimed Morales punched her in the chest, kicked another officer and disobeyed police orders.
As we know, those were allegations the King County Prosecutor's Office ultimately decided it couldn't prove - thanks in large part to the video evidence.
Whether Morales can prove her Constitutional rights were violated in federal court is another question, but based on what we know - and what we've seen - it would seem she has a strong case to make.
Find Morales' full lawsuit on the following page ...