Chinn's Win

An antiwar activist who was stopped on his way to a protest is awarded the legal cost of his wrongful-arrest suit.

The U.S. District Court in Tacoma has awarded almost $250,000 in attorneys' fees and costs to Olympia activist Philip Chinn, whose story was told in a recent Seattle Weekly cover story ("They Like to Watch," June 9).The story revealed a long pattern of infiltration and spying by military and local police to undermine the antiwar movement. This award for legal costs is in addition to $169,000 already given to Chinn by the three defendants—the Washington State Patrol, the City of Aberdeen, and Grays Harbor County—in a settlement of Chinn's claim of false arrest and violation of civil rights. Thus, a phony traffic stop of Chinn and others who were heading to a protest cost taxpayers more than $400,000.In approving payment for legal costs, the court called Chinn's claim "far more than a wrongful arrest case. Besides ordinary damages, it was an attempt to vindicate the plaintiff's civil rights, and involved issues of whether governmental agencies were unconstitutionally targeting and arresting protesters without probable cause." Though the settlement precluded a trial and verdict, the court said Chinn and the public could view the outcome as "some vindication of the plaintiff's position."Chinn was en route to protest military equipment movements at the Port of Grays Harbor in May 2007 when stopped near Montesano by a state trooper. Chinn said he was then wrongfully arrested for DUI."There's no evidence that Mr. Chinn had broken any law or that there was any justification whatsoever for stopping him," said his attorney, Larry Hildes—other than preventing him from attending the antiwar rally. ACLU executive director Kathleen Taylor said the case "sends a strong message to public officials around the state that they need to respect free speech rights and political dissent."

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