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Ex-prosecutor sues city of Coquille over DUI arrest

Aug 12, 2013


By The Associated Press

EUGENE — The former district attorney of Coos County has sued the city of Coquille, its police chief and an officer over a disputed drunken driving arrest two years ago.

Paul Burgett (bur-GEHT’), who retired in 2007, was arrested in 2011, but the attorney general's office recommended not going through with the case, The Eugene Register-Guard reported Monday.

After he was taken to the police station, Burgett took a breath test that put his blood alcohol level at .04 percent.

Drivers can be convicted even if they test below the .08 percent threshold, but officers have to prove impairment.

The lawsuit says Police Chief Janis Blue told reporters Burgett failed the sobriety tests and was impaired. It accuses her of making a deliberately false statement to justify the traffic stop and arrest.

The suit says Burgett told the officer that sobriety tests would not be effective because of his age, then 63, and physical limitations, which included a torn Achilles tendon and a pinched neck nerve. It says the officer, Sean Sanborn, insisted on them, and then conducted them on a sloping surface instead of level ground as required.

The suit says Sanborn had no cause to pull him over in the first place. Burgett was acquitted of failing to dim his headlights for oncoming traffic.

The suit filed in federal court in Eugene says the city is lax in training and discipline for officers, and officers pursue false charges against people to stop them from pursuing civil claims. It seeks $100,000 and other unspecified damages.

Coquille City Manager Ben Marchant said the city would have no comment on pending litigation.

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Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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