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Worthington, Promvongsa settle excessive force lawsuit


ST. PAUL — Worthington resident Anthony Promvongsa, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the city of Worthington have reached a settlement agreement in U.S. District Court over a claim that Worthington Police Department (WPD) officers subjected Promvongsa to excessive force during a July 2016 traffic stop.

The two parties came to an agreement Monday in a St. Paul courtroom after a nearly six-hour settlement conference.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright approved a request by Promvongsa’s attorneys to dismiss claims against five individual WPD employees with prejudice, meaning the claims cannot be brought again. Next, an order to dismiss charges against the city, WPD and Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force (BRDTF) will be filed with the court before the settlement is officially completed.

“We have reached a settlement, our client is satisfied with the settlement,” said Teresa Nelson, ACLU of Minnesota legal director. “Until the settlement is approved by the city council we will not be sharing any more details.”

A legal representative for the city said minor details are still being worked out, and the city will make a comment once everything is finalized.

The ACLU released a dashcam video of the incident in June 2017. The arrest footage appears to show WPD officer and BRDTF agent Joe Joswiak pull Promvongsa over, then approach the vehicle with his handgun out, before kneeing and punching the Worthington resident and dragging him out of the vehicle.

Promvongsa’s attorneys alleged the department covered up the incident and did not properly document and investigate allegations of excessive force. They also said Sgt. Tim Gaul failed to intervene during the incident and at one point remotely turned off the microphone on the dashcam — which Gaul said was an accident.

The defense — attorneys for Bloomington law firm Iverson Reuvers Condon — pointed to the fact that Promvongsa pleaded guilty in August 2017 to two counts of misdemeanor fifth-degree assault and driving after revocation, charges brought forth after the incident. The defense argued Promvongsa’s damages were caused by his own behavior leading up to the incident, as he was driving dangerously around officers.

Conversely, lawyers for the ACLU argued the charges did not justify Joswiak’s actions.

Costs to the city associated with the settlement and the defense will be paid for by the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, of which the city is a member. Details on the terms of the settlement will be released soon.