An Arkansas man who came to work in the North Dakota oil fields and wound up spending 542 days in jail on an attempted murder charge is suing police and others over the investigation of the case.
Thomas James Mashburn was accused of stabbing Jay Rasberry after an argument that started inside a Minot bar in September 2011. The case was dismissed on March 2, five days before trial, after Ward County prosecutor Sean Kasson said there was a lack of credible evidence.
Mashburn, 33, is claiming civil rights violations and false imprisonment. He's asking for unspecified damages. Lawyers for law enforcement have filed documents refuting the allegations.
"My client is still picking up the pieces. He really is," Kerry Rosenquist, Mashburn's lawyer, told The Associated Press Thursday. "He's searching for employment that would pay him approximately the same amount he was being paid when this happened, which was a lot."
The city of Minot and the Minot Police Department are named in the suit, along with officers Caisee Sandusky, Jason Sundbakken, Darren Dyke, Dan Maroney and Charles Johnson. Some witnesses and Rasberry are among five other defendants.
Randall Bakke, the attorney for Sandusky and Sundbakken, and Bryan Van Grinsven, the lawyer for city, police department and officers Dyke, Maroney and Johnson, did not return phone messages left Thursday by The Associated Press.
Bakke said in court documents that the complaint is frivolous. He said his clients acted in good faith and should be immune from legal action. Mashburn was "lawfully arrested and has not been deprived of any constitutional, civil or other right," Bakke wrote.
Investigators believe Mashburn stabbed Rasberry in the throat with a serrated knife after an argument that started in the Dakota Lounge. Police said at the time that Rasberry picked Mashburn out of a photo lineup.
Mashburn's complaint says, among other things, that evidence was handled improperly and in some cases destroyed, that a knife in Mashburn's possession did not match the weapon seized by police, that he was not properly read his Miranda rights, and that police failed to interview other suspects.
"As you read through the whole complaint, you'll see that we had witnesses who lied to begin with, we had police officers who manipulated evidence to fit what the witnesses told them, and that's the perfect storm," Rosenquist said in an interview.
The lawsuit was filed earlier in state court, but defendants in the case moved to have the complaint heard in federal court.