Animal advocate wins suit

By Michael McFall, Staff Writer

Animal rights advocate Jeremy Beckham has won a lawsuit against a U police officer who he said unrightfully grabbed him.

On April 6, 2008, Officer Mike Richards approached Beckham, a senior in history, while he was acting as an observer for activists protesting animal rights in a U researcher’s neighborhood. According to court documents, Richards placed an arm around Beckham and pulled him close to intimidate or frighten him, and when the student repeatedly asked him to remove his arm, he did not.

“What, you’re out here and you’re not intimidating (the neighbors),” Richards said, pointing to the houses Beckham’s associates were marching around with signs and a bullhorn. The officer was not officially detaining Beckham for a crime and had no cause to physically hold him, according to the records.

Beckham sued, and a 3rd District Court judge approved a $500 judgment on Monday in favor of the student. The U also had to pay Beckham’s $3,200 attorney fee and make an admission of wrongdoing. An admission is what separates a judgment from a settlement8212;paying off the complainant to drop the case8212;but the U Police Department argues that’s exactly what happened.

“It was a nuisance fee,” said Sgt. Arb Nordgran, spokesman for U Police. The U decided it was best to find out “what it’s going to take to pay (Beckham) off, to go away,” instead of spending thousands of dollars to fight the case during a time of heavy budget cuts, Nordgran said.

The student believes the U Police’s explanation is simply a spin.

Beckham donated the $500 to a collection for Jordan Holladay, a fellow animal rights activist who was arrested for targeting a U researcher’s home during a separate protest. He said the money is meant to help pay for Holladay’s court fees.

Two other U students are also defendants in Holladay’s case, but Beckham said he isn’t sure if they’ll be as successful as he was. Beckham largely credits his victory to a video taken of the entire incident, so he said “there was no question.” For the other students, their case isn’t cut-and-dry and will likely move to a jury trial later this year.

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Erik Daenitz

Animal rights advocates protest a conference held last fall. The leader of the group recently won a lawsuit against the U Police for unrightfully grabbing him.