A restaurateur named Bret Frimmel has won a $5 million defamation suit against Phoenix police after Sheriff Joe Arpaio had his establishment raided seven years ago searching for illegal aliens with fake ID cards used to obtain jobs.
The restaurant is named Uncle Sam’s. Frimmel alleged that Arpaio defamed him and violated his rights during the raid.
Maricopa County officials approved the massive settlement on Wednesday just weeks after they signed off on a separate $400,000 settlement to resolve similar claims brought by Uncle Sam’s manager Lisa Norton.
Officials approved $3.1 million of the suit with the remaining $1.9 million to be eaten by an insurer.
Both Frimmel and Norton were arrested by Arpaio back in January of 2014 on employment-related identity theft charges. Those charges were dismissed, however, after a judge ruled that one of the detectives involved “recklessly disregarded the truth” in the affidavit that was used to obtain search warrants. He then decided there was no probable cause to back up the warrants.
Another judge handling the case found in March of 2019 that there was probable cause to arrest Frimmel and Norton on the ID theft charge. He ruled against the lawsuit’s claims of malicious arrest and abuse of process.
Left at play in the suit were claims of an illegal search, defamation, and negligent restraint related to the handcuffing of Frimmel during the arrest.
Frimmel and Norton have naturally denied any wrongdoing. Their lawsuit was one of the last civil cases that were pending against Arpaio.
The restaurant was one of approximately 80 businesses that Arpaio raided from 2008 through 2014. Those investigations led to hundreds of illegal alien workers being arrested for using fake or stolen IDs to get jobs. Under Arizona law that is a felony.
There were nine employees at Uncle Sam’s that were arrested during that investigation.
The owner and manager claim they were arrested after Frimmel was asked by the U.S. Justice Department for his help in a now-settled civil rights lawsuit that accused Arpaio of racial profiling, retaliating against his critics, and other civil rights violations.
Oddly enough, one of Frimmel’s attorneys admitted that the Justice Department contacted his client during the investigation, but Frimmel never called him back. The claim of retaliation seems moot at this point.
“My clients feel vindicated by the settlement,” Leon Silver, one of the attorneys representing Frimmel and Norton, proclaimed. “They are relieved to have this behind them. They have lived with this way too long. They just want to get on with their lives.” They will do so at a considerable cost to taxpayers over a sheriff purportedly doing his duty to uphold the law.
Arpaio is now running for mayor of his adopted hometown of Fountain Hills. He said it was the county’s decision to settle the case and left it at that.
(Video Credit: Fox 10 Phoenix)
“I was ready to go to court and go before a jury of my peers to testify,” Arpaio claimed in a statement. “I didn’t have that chance. I still feel like we would have won that trial if it went before a jury.”
Uncle Sam’s has two locations in Phoenix, one near Shea Boulevard and 32nd Street and another in Peoria.
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