CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa county agreed Wednesday to pay $285,000 to an Arizona man who was arrested, transported across the country and jailed for 68 days for a crime that he did not commit.
The payment will resolve a federal lawsuit that 23-year-old Joseph McBride filed in early January against Linn County and its longtime top prosecutor, County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden.
McBride was wrongly accused of participating in a Jan. 1, 2017, home invasion in Cedar Rapids in which a 27-year-old man was beaten with a handgun and robbed. McBride had grown up in Cedar Rapids but moved to Phoenix in November 2015, and had evidence showing he was 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) away from the scene when the crime occurred.
McBride told The Associated Press in an interview that he remains haunted by his treatment, which included a weeklong drive in which he was shackled and handcuffed in the back of a private prison van that lacked air conditioning. He compared that experience to torture and said he felt sick when a judge told him his charge carried up to 25 years in prison.
“I can’t say I’m satisfied. I’m still hurt by the fact that it happened,” said McBride, who says he is planning to move out of his apartment to avoid daily reminders of his arrest.
John Harris, chairman of the county board, confirmed the settlement Wednesday. He said the county is self-insured, which means the payment will come from taxpayers.
“A person doesn’t like to think that mistakes can be made, but everybody’s human,” he said. “We just have to acknowledge our mistakes, in most cases right them and move on.”
The settlement doesn’t include an admission of liability or apology to McBride. But his attorney, Tom Frerichs, praised assistant county attorney Bob Hruska, who negotiated the settlement, for “his prompt and thoughtful attention to this case.”
“He did the right thing for the people in Linn County to bring this case to a quick resolution,” Frerichs said.
Vander Sanden signed a complaint last summer charging McBride and two others with first-degree robbery. Investigators from the Cedar Rapids Police Department never interviewed McBride. But he was implicated after the victim said he did his own investigation on Facebook and told detectives he was “90 percent sure” an account linked to McBride belonged to one of the assailants.
Authorities arrested McBride last August at his apartment in Phoenix, where he was ordered jailed on a $50,000 cash-only bond. He informed authorities that he was innocent and soon provided a cellphone photo proving he was in Glendale, Arizona, hours before the robbery. But he was told he had to wait to make his case in Iowa.
The private prison van that picked him up made stops at jails in Nevada, Colorado and Missouri. The ride cost Linn County taxpayers $2,500.
McBride’s attorney filed notice of his alibi defense Oct. 9, providing names of witnesses. One attested that he celebrated New Year’s Eve partying with McBride in Phoenix and spent the next day with him rearranging a storage unit. But prosecutors dropped the case and had McBride released only after one of the robbery participants identified another man as the third suspect as part of a cooperation agreement. That suspect, a convicted felon with a violent past, hasn’t been charged.
McBride’s lawsuit alleged that the criminal complaint falsely contended police had “phone records and social media” evidence showing he conspired with the other two suspects. McBride said he knew both as acquaintances but hadn’t seen them in years.
McBride said he got his job back at an Arizona dog treats factory after he was released, and is planning to use the settlement to buy a new car.
The settlement marks the second $285,000 payment an Iowa county has recently made to one of Frerichs’ clients over claims that they were the victims of a shoddy investigation. Last year, neighboring Johnson County paid that sum to settle a lawsuit filed by an attorney who spent 16 days in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.
By RYAN J. FOLEY
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