MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

August 4, 2008

Suit against officer may go to trial

A federal lawsuit filed against the city of Muskogee and a local police officer alleging civil rights violations likely is heading to trial after negotiators failed to settle the matter.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Dallas Seabolt, whose prison sentence was overturned after the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled the traffic stop that resulted with a drug conviction violated Seabolt’s constitutional rights.

According to the complaint, Seabolt, 51, spent nearly three years in prison as a result of the arrest, the subsequent conviction and the revocation of a sentence previously suspended.

Seabolt’s lawyer said Muskogee Police Officer Mark Ridley deliberately stretched out the traffic stop so that a drug dog could be called to the scene. A case found in the rear of the vehicle Seabolt was driving contained parts of clandestine drug lab.

The appellate court said Ridley lacked reasonable suspicion to prolong the traffic stop, which the arresting officer said began with Seabolt’s alleged failure to use a turn signal.

City Attorney Frank Medearis said he could not comment about the settlement conference this past Friday because the matter is considered pending litigation. Online court records indicate the matter remains unresolved.

Motions for summary judgment filed by the city of Muskogee and Ridley, the arresting officer also named as a defendant, also are pending.

In the complaint, filed in 2007 by Muskogee lawyer Corrine O’Day, said her client, who has been diagnosed with leukemia, “lost 1,079 days of a healthy life behind bars” after he was “wrongly arrested and imprisoned.”

During that time in prison, Seabolt’s daughter died, and he was not allowed to attend the funeral, which caused him extreme emotional distress.

Seabolt is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Reach D.E. Smoot at 918-684-2903 or Click Here to Send Email

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