Clark County is paying $ 72,000 to a man who argued with the MP for weeks prior to the strained arrest
A file photo of the entrance to the Clark County Law Enforcement Center in Vancouver, Washington.
Troy Brynelson / OPB
Clark County, Washington, has agreed to pay $ 72,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed by a man who feuded with MPs for several months in 2017, resulting in an arrest outside his home with gun drawn of a member of parliament.
Steven Klug, a 54-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran, said the escalating clash with proxy was due to an argument with proxy Jack Phane in August 2017 while Klug was checking the oil on his SUV at a gas station. The deputy then dressed Klug and gave him a ticket.
Klug claimed that Phane and two other MPs then “conspired” to molest and arrest him. The MPs arrested him one night in October 2017, according to the court records. Another MP then arrested Klug in December on charges of intimidating an officer while trying to pay the ticket. A Clark County judge dismissed Klug’s arrest with no probable cause.
Klug filed the civil rights lawsuit in the US District Court in West Washington in October 2019. The district agreed to the settlement this week, said Klug’s attorney Angus Lee.
The settlement came five months after a US judge found evidence of one of Klug’s allegations. The magistrate described the case as two “arrogant” men whose argument escalated into violence.
“The matter … escalated over the course of several weeks to the point where lives were threatened and weapons were drawn,” wrote Judge Richard Creatura on March 3. “It should never have come to that. All sides are to blame, but only a small part should be clarified in this court. “
The magistrate blamed Klug for his willingness to fight. Creatura wrote that most of his claims should be dismissed except for one: wrongful detention when Rep. Dan Brown Smart stopped outside his house one night while Phane watched from a block away.
The feud began, according to court records, when Klug pumped his SUV’s gasoline and checked the oil before sunrise on August 3, 2017. As Phane approached Klug and his Nissan Xterra, Klug allegedly asked him, “Is it a bloody crime, a bloody vehicle?”
Phane, Klug claimed, and then replied with the words “Drive safely”. The police officer then parked his patrol car across the street, waited for Klug to leave, and then put him on, according to the court files. He quoted Klug for having covered his license plate with a bicycle rack.
Phane also entered Klug’s name into a local database, Lee said, labeling it as a “security issue”. The entry referred to Klug carrying knives.
A month later, Brown was patrolling Klug’s neighborhood at 2 a.m., the records said. When Klug left his house to go to the gym, he was suddenly “surrounded by several patrol cars, all with activated emergency lights”.
“Defendant Brown claims that he was investigating yelling that he allegedly heard somewhere in the neighborhood – although no one else corroborates this statement and the plaintiff claims that there was no noise at all that morning,” wrote Creatura.
Brown held up Klug with high-pitched flashlights for “several minutes,” the records said. He inspected Klug’s car. Then the police drove away. Phane, the records said, watched from a parked vehicle a block away.
Should the case go to jury, Creatura wrote, the stop would likely prove illegal.
Tensions peaked again in autumn 2017. In October, Klug sent a payment for the August ticket. He left a note that he felt had been blackmailed. He wrote that the county had “one last chance to return my hard-earned money.”
A county employee also found an orange powder in the envelope. When the employee called Klug, he said it was likely spices he spilled while mixing a pre-workout drink. An FBI analysis later found the powder contained turmeric and cinnamon.
A criminal report on the envelope and the orange powder ended up in the hands of Deputy Jared Stevens in November 2017. Stevens interviewed the employee about her call to Klug, and she described him as “excuse yourself in one minute and then yell and curse on the next,” court records show.
Stevens, a month later, officers arrested Klug for intimidating an officer. While Klug claimed the spill was accidental, the judge wrote that it was reasonable for a MP to believe that the note and powder – albeit harmless – could still be intended as a threat.
Stevens arrested Klug that evening on December 7, 2017. Court records show that he saw that Klug was labeled hostile and wore knives. Stevens drew his gun, despite claiming he was pointing it down. Klug claimed that Stevens had the gun pointed at him.
Ultimately, Creatura found that all claims except those against Brown should be dismissed.
A district spokesman put questions to the Clark County Sheriff’s office. A representative from the sheriff’s office did not respond to multiple inquiries.
Klug did not comment. Lee, Klug’s attorney, said his client was relieved when the argument ended.
“In this case, it was never about money. As a former Marine, it was about standing up for his constitutional rights and making sure the county takes the matter seriously, ”said Lee.