Former congressional candidate files claim against county

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: June 30, 2011, 6:07 PM

 

David Hedrick has fought to be a U.S. congressman. He fought against criminal charges.

Now, he wants to square off against Clark County over his October arrest on suspicion of assaulting his wife.

The failed 3rd Congressional District candidate filed a tort claim Wednesday alleging false arrest. The 32-year-old Camas man was acquitted in February by a Clark County District Court jury of the fourth-degree assault charge for which he was arrested.

Now, he has terse words for the Clark County sheriff’s office.

“I was arrested because I have a Y chromosome,” Hedrick said in a Thursday email to The Columbian.

Chief Civil Deputy Prosecutor Bronson Potter confirmed that county officials received the tort claim — a three paragraph letter addressed to Sheriff Garry Lucas — and are reviewing it. As is standard in pending civil claims, Potter said he could not comment.

By state law, the county has 60 days to respond to a tort claim. If the grievance is not settled within that time, a plaintiff can file a lawsuit with the court.

Hedrick said he is seeking damages of more than $500,000 or an amount to be determined at trial. In Washington, potential damages cannot be specified prior to trial.

Hedrick, a Tea Party candidate, came in third in the August primary election behind Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler and Democrat Denny Heck. His conservative ideals have been on display in a viral 2009 YouTube video, where he lambasted then-U.S. Rep. Brian Baird. He also wrote a children’s book critical of President Barack Obama.

On Oct. 9, he was arrested by a Clark County sheriff’s deputy, Jesse Henschel, on suspicion of misdemeanor assault of his wife, Megan Hedrick.

At the Feb. 18 trial, a Clark County District Court jury rendered a not-guilty verdict after hearing Megan Hedrick testify that her husband never assaulted her. Instead, she said that she slapped her husband on the wrist and swung a folding chair at him during an argument.

She had initially placed a 911 call, accusing her husband of hitting her twice in the head. But once the deputy arrived on scene, she gave inconsistent statements, first saying her husband had only hit her once and later recanting all allegations.

After hearing the verdict, Hedrick told a Columbian reporter that the media attention of the case had caused added stress for his family.

In a press release issued Thursday, Hedrick said he thought “responding officers violated both state and federal law,” including his constitutional rights. He pointed out that the deputy said it is policy to make an arrest when responding to a domestic violence call. (The deputy arrested Hedrick and forwarded information to the Vancouver City Attorney’s Office for consideration of charges against Megan Hedrick. However, she was never charged.)

It is, in fact, Washington law that officers must make an arrest if they respond to an active domestic violence incident.

“Despite overwhelming evidence demonstrating that Mr. Hedrick was the victim, he was labeled the ‘primary aggressor’ and taken into custody because, according to the deputy on scene, ‘Mothers should stay home with their children,’ ” Hedrick said in the press release.

The claim alleges county deputies “committed false arrest and used excessive force when they arrested David W. Hedrick for no legal reason.” The letter then highlights Hedrick’s eventual acquittal.

When a law enforcement officer makes an arrest, “probable cause” must be established, or a certainty that a crime could have occurred. At trial, the burden is much higher: proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Hedrick said in the press release that he is representing himself “to minimize any costs to the taxpayer resulting from the award of attorney expenses at the conclusion of this action.”