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Sunday, June 4, 2023
June 4, 2023

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Battle Ground couple, county settle lawsuit

They alleged unlawful arrest, imprisonment in attempted murder case

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor

A Battle Ground couple who sued the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, alleging unlawful arrest and imprisonment while prosecutors prepared an attempted murder case against the wife, settled their suit for $75,000.

Sara and Cameron Monte filed the lawsuit Sept. 23, 2015, in Superior Court. The case was dismissed in May 2016, but the Court of Appeals reversed the decision a few months later, putting it back in play.

The lawsuit claimed that between Nov. 23, 2013, and July 2, 2014, Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik, his deputy prosecutors and other law enforcement agencies violated Sara Monte’s civil and constitutional rights when she was unlawfully arrested and detained.

The Montes, represented by Vancouver attorney Roger Bennett, and the Washington Counties Risk Pool, on behalf of Clark County, reached the settlement agreement July 10.

The county is no longer insured through the risk pool — a coalition of Washington counties that purchase insurance as a group to cut costs — but the case was still covered because of its timing.

The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice Aug. 2, meaning it cannot be refiled.

Golik said Tuesday that the risk pool decided to settle the case, after considering the cost of litigation and potential exposure.

“Our opinion is that a jury would likely not have awarded a verdict to the plaintiff,” he said.

Clark County sheriff’s deputies responded to the Montes’ home for an unknown problem Oct. 23, 2010, and Sara Monte was taken to Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center on an involuntary mental hold, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Superior Court.

A social worker with Child Protective Services later interviewed the family and learned that Monte allegedly suffered a psychotic break and had attacked one of her children by blocking the child’s airways, court records said.

She was arrested without an arrest warrant years after the alleged crime, the suit stated, and the Montes argued that the prosecuting attorney’s office lacked authority, because the statute of limitations had expired prior to Sara Monte’s arrest.

The prosecuting attorney’s office unlawfully filed the charge against her without properly investigating the sufficiency of evidence, the Montes argued. And prior to her arrest, prosecutors had determined there was insufficient evidence to prosecute her, according to the lawsuit.

The couple also argued that prosecutors wrongfully advocated that Sara Monte be separated from her minor children, after it was previously determined they were safe in her care, the suit said.

Her criminal case was dismissed with prejudice in June 2014, court documents state.

Golik said that criminal charges were originally referred against Monte to the Children’s Justice Center and that a deputy prosecutor reviewed the case but did not charge at that time.

The deputy prosecutor was monitoring Monte’s treatment, as was CPS.

When the center’s multidisciplinary team met — which consists of law enforcement, prosecutors, CPS, medical and victims advocates — to discuss the referral, they decided to charge Monte. However, they did not realize at the time of filing that the three-year statute of limitations had run out, Golik said. Monte’s defense attorney raised the issue, and the prosecution agreed to dismiss the case.

“This case should have been charged inside the statute,” Golik said. “Everything that happened in this case is extremely uncommon. … We have not had another case like this that I can recall in this office.”

It’s an issue that’s since been discussed in his office, he added.

The attorney who represented the county during mediation, Robert Novasky of Forsberg & Umlauf Litigation Defense in Tacoma, was unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon.