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Adams County Pays $75,000 In Excessive Force Case

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John Vetter (credit: Adams County Sheriff's Department)

John Vetter (credit: Adams County Sheriff’s Department)

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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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