Update: Last week, a jury sided with Vicki Ferrari, a Denver cop and former American Gladiators contestant in a lawsuit charging her with excessive force in relation to an interaction with David Kraus, manager of a local Grease Monkey, back in 2007. On Friday, we heard from Kraus's attorney, David Lane, who was downcast about the verdict. Ferrari's lawyer, Sean Olson, weighs in today with a very different take.
"Obviously, we are very happy that the jury took the time to hear and look at everything in the case and come to what we considered a proper conclusion," Olson says. He admits that he wasn't surprised the case went all the way to trial, despite what he characterizes as a lack of evidence that Ferrari did anything wrong. (During the 2007 incident, she arrested Kraus for interference after he asked her to move her car, which was blocking a Grease Monkey entrance; he claimed to have suffered permanent injury to his hand because of the way she cuffed him.) However, he says "I was certainly disappointed that it got this far -- that Officer Ferrari had to take on the stress and the time that a case like this requires."
While "it's pretty hard to crawl inside the mind of a jury and figure out why they came to the conclusion they did," he goes on, "I think in this particular case the facts indicated that a constitutional violation didn't occur under these circumstances. That's a pretty high bar to meet, and it was our conclusion from the beginning that Mr. Kraus didn't reach that bar -- that Officer Ferrari did everything lawfully that day."
Ferrari's reaction? "She was overjoyed," Olson notes. "This has been going on for a very long time, and for anybody who's a party to a civil suit like this -- especially one that has the potential to impact their career in such a serious manner -- to finally be able to put it behind her was, I think, a great relief for her."
Our earlier coverage of the decision is below:
Original item, 7:56 a.m. January 28: The claims made in a high-profile excessive-force lawsuit aimed at Vicki Ferrari, a Denver cop and former American Gladiators contestant didn't impress a jury, whose members tossed allegations against her in federal court yesterday.
Attorney David Lane, who represented Ferrari's accuser, David Kraus, was disappointed but not shocked.
"It's a really, really difficult burden to convince a jury that police officers ever do anything wrong," Lane says. "It upsets their universe. If a police officer is the bad guy, who's protecting us from the bad guys? And we know that. That's why we're among the few law firms in the state that do these kinds of cases."
Ferrari, one of two Denver police officers and former American Gladiators hopefuls to be sued of late (Ferrari's friend Abbe Dorn has also been targeted with an excessive-force complaint), works in the Denver Police Department's public-information office. In addition, she offers traffic reports for 9News. She appeared on American Gladiators in 2008, but the incident cited in the suit took place the previous year.
Kraus, a manager at a Colfax Grease Monkey, charged that Ferrari had blocked an entrance to the business while offering support to fellow cops down the street and refused to move her vehicle when he requested that she do so. He further asserted that after he asked for her business card and requested that she call a superior, she began yelling at him, then busted him for interference, causing permanent nerve damage to his hand by the way she cuffed him.
Ferrari's attorney, Sean Olson, told a very different story about the Ferrari-Kraus encounter. He maintains that Ferrari called her supervisor as Kraus asked -- and after overhearing an outburst from the manager, that officer instructed Ferrari to arrest him. Furthermore, Olson says a search revealed that Kraus was carrying a loaded gun; he was legally entitled to pack a concealed weapon but didn't have the necessary paperwork on his person.
In the end, the jury sided with Ferrari, and Lane concedes that the lack of video showing the incident, not to mention an injury that was tough to prove, presented a significant challenge.
"This was a difficult case -- we knew that going in," he allows. "We have an informal rule that in order to take a case, we have to have something more than the word of a citizen against the word of a police officer, because we will lose that battle. In this case, we thought David Kraus was literally such a Boy Scout that we thought we'd give it a run. Because we believed him."
Still, a video or photos wouldn't have guaranteed victory.
"Those are difficult cases, too," he acknowledges. "People come to me all the time and say, 'I have hospital records and photos to show my injuries.' But the issue is never, 'Did they beat you?' The issue is, 'Were they justified to beat you?' Proving people get beaten up by cops isn't a hard job. Proving that cops used excessive force is the hard job."
Nonetheless, Lane is eager to fight more battles of this sort. "When we have cases we believe in, we're going to keep on pushing," he says.
Page down to see photos of Ferrari in action on American Gladiators, as well as to read the lawsuit and letters to David Kraus from both the Office of the Independent Monitor and the Denver Police Department's internal affairs bureau.
Letter from the Office of the Independent Monitor:
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Internal affairs bureau letter: