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Snohomish pays $8,000 to settle UW professor's arrest lawsuit

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By Eric Stevick and Jackson Holtz
Herald Writers
Published:
SNOHOMISH -- A visual arts professor who was frisked and arrested in 2005 after taking photographs of power lines has reached an $8,000 settlement that ends her lawsuit against the city of Snohomish.
"I was not interested in the money," said Shirley Scheier, 55, an associate professor of fine arts at the University of Washington. "I am interested in the issues. I am interested in it being made clear that there is nothing suspicious about photography."
Scheier said she donated the settlement money to the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented her in the lawsuit.
The city has not changed any of its policies, Snohomish city manager Larry Bauman said
"Ms. Scheier was handled with courtesy and appropriate care," he said.
The decision to settle with the Seattle artist was made by lawyers for the Washington Cities Insurance Authority, the city's insurance agent, Bauman said.
Not included in the final settlement was a letter of apology, something Scheier originally wanted.
Bauman said the city had offered a letter under an initial settlement plan that did not include any cash.
Scheier rejected that offer and the case returned to mediation, where the final settlement was reached, Bauman said.
The city tried to get the case dismissed, but a federal judge rejected that argument in November.
In a written ruling, Judge John Coughenhour said: "An individual's fundamental Fourth Amendment right to be free from 'unreasonable searches and seizures' does not dissipate merely because of generalized, unsubstantiated suspicions of terrorist activity."
"We felt it was a very strong ruling," said Doug Honig, a spokesman for the ACLU of Washington.
The city maintained it had "reasonable suspicion" to detain her.
Scheier said she was taking photos with a camera Oct. 17, 2005. She said she was on public property near the federal Bonneville Power Administration substation as part of her own artistic work. The substation has been identified by the department of Homeland Security as a "critical infrastructure-key asset target," according to the insurance company representing the city.
Bonneville Power officials saw Scheier acting in what they considered a "furtive and suspicious manner," Snohomish Police Chief John Turner said Monday.
Police were called but Scheier didn't cooperate, he said.
She drove off in her 1979 Toyota station wagon. Police pulled her over along Highway 9.
Once detained, the professor still didn't do as told, Turner said.
As a precaution, officers placed her in cuffs and called the FBI.
"We did the appropriate thing; we would do it again," Turner said.
Scheier said she was cooperative and explained to police she was an art professor interested in power lines as part of the ecosystem.
"They looked at me like I was nuts," she said.
She said she felt "horribly humiliated" when she was handcuffed and placed in the police car.
Settling the case likely saved the city money. A week-long trial could have cost upwards of $30,000, Turner said.
"The decision was made in the best interest of the public in this matter," he said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » PhotographySnohomishPoliceUniversity of WashingtonFederal

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