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Adams County Pays $75,000 In Excessive Force Case

Written by Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4) – Adams County has paid a 41-year-old man $75,000 after he received a broken jaw during a scuffle with an Adams County deputy sheriff.

“I would have been more content if he lost his job,” said John Vetter, referring to Adams County deputy Andrew Roth.

Through the Adams County Sheriff’s Department, Roth declined to be interviewed for this report.

On April 8, 2009, Roth stopped Vetter who he said was walking through a “high crime area.” The deputy found Vetter was wanted for several outstanding warrants. As he attempted to handcuff Vetter, Roth said the man struggled and resisted and the pair went to the ground.

“I then grabbed John Vetter and threw him to the ground and landed on top of him with both of my knees on his back,” was the way Roth wrote up the incident.

Vetter emerged from the tussle with a broken jaw and a much different account of what happened, claiming he was the victim of excessive force.

“I was laying on the ground,” Vetter said, “in handcuffs. He punched me while I was on the ground.”

Roth charged Vetter with resisting arrest. But when the criminal case went to trial, after both Vetter and Roth testified, the jury deliberated between 6 and 15 minutes, according to Vetter and his attorney David Juarez, before acquitting Vetter of the charge.

“I guess somebody was lying and it wasn’t me,” Vetter said.

Vetter filed a civil suit against Roth and Adams County over the incident. Adams County recently paid Vetter $75,000 to settle his claim over his broken jaw. Along with the hefty payout the county denied wrongdoing and called Vetter’s lawsuit “meritless.”

“I think he should have lost his job,” Vetter said, “because he’s going to hurt someone else again.”

The Adams County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the case and declined to file charges against Roth.

“Therefore, there is no evidence that Deputy Roth violated any criminal laws when affecting an arrest against John Vetter on April 8, 2009, as the amount of force he used was justified and reasonable under the Colorado statutes,” wrote Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Kowert.

Roth is familiar with controversy. In 2005 a Department of Motor Vehicles hearing officer, Greg Mahoney, ruled Roth had a “credibility problem.” Mahoney reached that conclusion following a DUI stop Roth made. The hearing officer compared Roth’s written reports of what happened with videotape from the incident.

“I don’t think he was credible regarding certain aspects of the standard field sobriety tests,” wrote Mahoney.

That past credibility issue factored into the Vetter settlement.    Adams County attorney Hal Warren told CBS4 “the case was worth $75,000 to settle. It was more than a nuisance settlement,” said Warren, “because of the risk.”

Warren said the decision to settle for a comparatively large amount was due in part to Roth’s past conduct.

“We had concerns the focus of the case would be on Deputy Roth’s past conduct and that increased the risk. That’s the truth,” Warren said.

Sgt. Candi Baker, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s department, said via e-mail the agency remains confident in Roth.

“We have confidence in all our employees,” wrote Baker. “If we did not the individual would not be working for this agency.”

Roth was recently transferred from patrol duties to the jail.

“Nothing should be inferred based upon a deputy being transferred,” Baker wrote. “All staffing decisions are based upon how we can best serve the citizens of Adams County, the sheriff’s office and the employee.”

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  • gilbert

    i that all law enforcement officer’s get the bad rap for trying to do there job’s and i’m very proud of what they do in this state i see it this way you do the crime then you pay for it in the long run as for the officer just keep doing what you know for mister vetter he never should have walked in a crime sence with the best cop ever in adam’s county.

    • Norma Leigh Steinburg

      That’s something of an ignorant statement there Gilbert. I’m curious, please enlighten me as to what “crime scene” you’re talking about. I don’t recall hearing about anything like that. I wonder where where are you getting your information? Regardless, have you even considered the extremely short, what twelve minute? Jury deliberation?
      I wonder if this would take even a minimally educated person much longer than a scratch on the head, that it was for lack of an actual charge to give the “resisting arrest” any sort of validity? Since Mister Roth was far too engaged in his apprehension and violent beating of this supposed criminal than to even listen to what he had to say? From what I gather, Roth was to busy brutally smashing Mr. Vetter’s face into a pulp than to spend two minutes listening to the man tell him he had the wrong person.
      I’ve already lost faith and would feel far less than “SAFE” if I were living in Adams County right now. Goodness, I can’t bare to imagine what must be going on in that jail. Where there are people who have actually been convicted of crimes, who have to deal with this “officer of the law.”
      Seems to me that Roth is also a self proclaimed judge, jury and executioner. That is some superiority complex if you ask me. Is this the “job” that you’re so proud of him doing?
      I had always, obviously mistaken to have believed that Colorado’s law enforcement abided by a strict code of ethics. People in ANY community should be able to trust their appointed officers to serve and protect them. Which is the oath each of them take upon beginning their service/ duty/ “JOB” , Sir.
      The question this entire thing raises to me, is just how far up the ladder of the police force does this or any corruption run? “BEST COP” INDEED. In my eyes the department has done nothing more than make a mockery of their own integrity.
      It never ceases to amaze me how tough and intelligent people think they are behind a computer screen, much less a police chief’s desk. Quick movie reference, I am Jack’s diminishing faith in humanity.
      Have a nice day Mr. Gilbert.

  • abc

    It appears that Deputy Roth has demonstrated a pattern of “integrity issues” over the years. If it was such a nuisance the county should have gone to trial and see who is more credible. Opps, sounds like one jury already has decided to believe.
    The real problem here is the sheriff departments and the police unions continue to defend that 10% of bad apples to the bitter end,

  • DenverVet

    I hope he has to use that money to pay off whatever he needs to for his outstanding warrants. I would not have given him a dime, that’s the risk you take when on the lamb.

  • Sam Kole

    it’s a dam shame when the best defense adams county sheriffs department could raise in this case of this nature is to sweep it under the rug like the past problems Deputy Roth has had with interacting with the community.why was he not charged with assault? I”m sure if this Mr vetter was in the wrong for being at the park on a nice after noon. Guess living in adams county is a crime punishable with police brutality.Be warned!!!!!!! this could happen to any one! !!!!And you are guilty till proven otherwise !!!! AND NOT EVEN THEN DO THEY ADMIT THERE WRONG THEY JUST PAY.

  • UreallyRaFool

    Hey vetter why dont you tell Brian Mass about all the meth you use and when you attacked officers with a weapon. Your no saint…

    • Missy

      @UreallyRaFool, what a cruel and irrelevant note. Whether or not it’s true I don’t know, but, drug users and/or offenders are not criminals. They suffer from addiction, depression and who knows what other mentally incapacitating illnesses. If you know this man personally, perhaps you’re upset he wouldn’t give you money or something? I never got the impression Mr. Vetter assumed himself a saint. Simply a victim of police brutality. Which, though dubbed “meritless” was granted a hefty little sum of merit. Wasn’t it? I hope your condescending note made your self loathing heart feel better. Jerk.

  • Concerned in Denver

    Not everyone is a criminal, gang member, drug dealer.
    It is illegal for cops to be violent to citizens and use excessive force. Tasers are used to control violence by the police. It is also not illegal to resist arrest when being falsely arrested. There also needs to be probable cause as to why they are being stopped and arrested.
    When they decided to become a police officer, they attended the Police Academy. It is there, they are taught how to protect themselves, as well as to protect the public. They are also trained that they need to show restraint, if at all possible. Not to abuse or to take the law into their own hands. They took an Oath when they became a police officer and in that oath it included serving and protecting the people.
    My son was beat up very recently by the police in Denver and suffered multiple injuries. After his beating, he was transferred via ambulance to the hospital. All he was doing was walking home from the bar (NOT DRIVING) to meet his girlfriend who was on her way to pick him up. Keep in mind that it is not illegal to go to a bar and drink and it is not illegal to walk home from the bar. The area he was in, is possibly considered high crime but he wasn’t and isn’t a criminal. (Federal and Evans) Of course he was charged with resisting arrest and there was no reason to arrest him. It has been my understanding that people the cops beat up get charged with this since they have to have something to cover their violent behavior to a citizen.
    Google Denver Police Brutality and watch the videos of what some cops have done to other citizens . You will see that they all get taken away in an ambulance and then read the charges they are charged with. I know a few cops and they are good and decent human beings and they do care.
    The only way to get rid of the bad apples is to report them when it happens and hope that Internal Affairs does something about it. From some of the stories I have read, most of the time they give the cops the benefit of the doubt and it gets blown off, which is why you get a lawyer and you take it to trial.
    Remember, it could happen to someone you love.

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