Nick Lynch excessive-force complaint against Denver Police tossed, attorney charges cover-up

Mere days after a jury considering an excessive-force lawsuit aimed at Officer Vicki Ferrari decided in favor of the Denver cop/ex-American Gladiators contestant, a similar complaint by Nick Lynch against four members of the DPD over a 2008 matter was rejected by Judge John Kane. Lynch's attorney, Robert Liechty, wasn't surprised by Kane's actions -- and he promises that the case is far from over.

The incident in question took place in March 2008, according to Lynch's 2009 complaint, on view in its entirety below; the document contains elements that Kane made off-limits, but which will likely reemerge in subsequent filings.

On the evening in question, Lynch was waiting outside Pat's, a LoDo nightclub, when he got into a fight with another person in line. He insists that he acted in self-defense during the altercation, but the other patron followed him and his two friends, then flagged down a passing police officer.

At that point, the complaint says, Lynch hid behind some bushes rather than risk being falsely accused of assault. He was subsequently approached by "up to six officers," with one of them allegedly striking him and throwing him face first into the bushes. Then, the document continues, "some 1-3 officers struck him while he was on the ground, hitting him approximately 6 times on the back of his left thigh with a nightstick or flashlight, causing permanent damage."

Problem is, Lynch "didn't know what officer beat him," Liechty says. "He couldn't identify him, because he was face down in the bushes. And the two witnesses across the street -- his friends -- saw the beating, but couldn't ID the officers, either, because it was too dark."

When Lynch consulted with Liechty after the incident, the attorney advised him to file a claim with the police's internal affairs bureau. By doing so, he was able to get the names of four officers involved in the arrest: Adam Barrett, Ken Field, Eric Golladay and Michael Morelock, all from District 6. But when the officers in question testified, Liechty notes, "they said, 'We didn't see anything. Everything looked fine to us' -- even though Nick Lynch had six big welts on the back of his leg and two witnesses saw beating motions."

In the end, Kane dismissed the case, and because he did so, Liechty will now be able to allege that the officers involved covered up the attack on his client in order to protect one of their own -- something he hadn't been able to do previously due to some legal technicalities.

"In the law, in order to prove a denial-of-access-to-court claim, you have to show that the officer deliberately withheld evidence, so that Mr. Lynch could not prevail at trial," he explains -- but now that Lynch hasn't prevailed, such a claim can be made.

Liechty plans to assert that behavior of the sort Lynch experienced is "District 6's custom -- that they don't pursue these police excessive-force cases." And to bolster his argument, he plans to cite other allegations of excessive force -- like, for instance, high-profile incidents involving Michael DeHerrera and Alexander Landau.

With ten days to submit post-judgment motions, Liechty will likely "file a motion to amend the complaint," he says, with the cover-up assertions front and center. But he knows it's not a slam dunk. He admits that "this is a highly unusual legal posture. We are in sort of uncharted legal land here."

Page down to read the 2009 complaint:

Nick Lynch complaint:

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts