An employer allegedly conspired with local police to have a black employee arrested before he could file a racial discrimination complaint — but their plot backfired.

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Courtesy of Buchanan Angeli Altschul & Sullivan LLP

  • Michael Fesser confided in his boss, Eric Benson, racial discrimination he faced while working for A&B Towing in 2017.
  • Before Fesser could file a formal complaint, Benson conspired with his fishing buddy, the former police chief of a local Portland, Oregon, police department, to have Fesser arrested, Oregon Live reported.
  • After several lawsuits and investigations unraveled the scheme, Fesser has won over $1 million in settlements.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

After working for A&B Towing in Portland, Oregon, for 16 years, Michael Fesser confided in the owner of the company, Eric Benson, about the racial discrimination he faced at work in 2017.

But before Fesser could file a formal complaint, his boss conspired with his fishing buddy — the former local police chief — to build a case against his employee and have him arrested, Oregon Live reported. 

After investigations and several lawsuits unraveled his employer’s scheme, Fesser has been awarded over $1 million in settlements — the largest amount awarded for a wrongful arrest case in the state.

Local police allegedly conspired to build a case against Fesser

In 2017, Fesser raised concerns with Benson about the racial harassment he was facing at work. He claimed his co-workers called him racist slurs, and one even asked him if the Confederate flag on the back of his truck bothered Fesser, according to Oregon Live.

Instead of addressing his employee’s concerns, court documents seen by Insider allege Benson called in a personal favor with his fishing buddy, former West Linn Police Chief Terry Timeus. The towing company owner wanted to have Fesser arrested, believing Fesser was going to file a lawsuit against his company.

Benson convinced Timeus to build a case against Fesser for unsupported accusations that Fesser was stealing proceeds from the car auctions he oversaw for the towing company, documents said.

Michael Fesser's lawyer obtained texts between the A&B Towing owner Eric Benson and West Linn detective Tony Reeves
Michael Fesser’s lawyer obtained texts between the A&B Towing owner Eric Benson and West Linn detective Tony Reeves

Courtesy of Buchanan Angeli Altschul & Sullivan LLP

Timeus then had West Linn officers conduct an “unlawful and unwarranted surveillance operation” of Fesser, who watched Fesser work with the company security cameras and had a co-worker make secret audio recordings of Fesser without a warrant or court order, according to court documents.

Court documents included extensive photos of text messages detailing Benson’s communication with the detective Timeus had assigned to the case, West Linn Detective Tony Reeves. Reeves gave Benson live updates of his “investigation.” The pair exchanged homophobic and racist remarks, which Reeves later attempted to deny having said by deleting the text messages.

Although Reeves later admitted they never found any evidence against Fesser, he had several Portland officers arrest Fesser on his way home from work in February 2017.

“My game, my rules,” Reeves wrote to Benson before police apprehended Fesser. “It’s better that we arrest him before he makes the complaint [of race discrimination]. Then it can’t be retaliation.”

Another veteran West Linn police lieutenant helped Reeves have Fesser arrested. The pair claimed Fesser was a “gang associate” despite not having contact with Fesser for more than two decades, according to court documents.

 Although West Linn officers didn’t have a search warrant, they pulled Fesser over on the highway, seizing his cash, cellphone, and a letter addressed to his boss about the alleged discrimination he faced at work. Officers arrested Fesser on false aggravated theft allegations.

When Fesser went back to the jail to retrieve his belongings days later, Detective Reeves allegedly informed Fesser he was being fired from his job at A&B Towing.  Cont…

Watch and pray black man. You are being targeted on every side.

 

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