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Case continues against retired city of Whitewater officer

Evidence destruction will go to trial

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published March 22, 2007, 3:43 p.m.)

A former Whitewater businessman’s civil case against a now-retired Whitewater detective will continue.

United States Magistrate Judge William E. Callahan Jr. Tuesday granted part of a defense motion for summary judgment in Steve Cvicker’s suit against Investigator Larry P. Meyer, but said part of Cvicker’s case has enough questions to warrant a trial.

Cvicker is suing Meyer, alleging the veteran detective violated his rights and hurt his business by continued harassment, which included wrongful arrests, intimidation of Hispanic employees and improper searches.

Meyer’s attorneys have asked for dismissal of the case as part of the motion for summary judgment.

A scheduling conference is set for Monday, April 9. Attorneys for both sides could not be reached.

Callahan ruled that Meyer is entitled to qualified immunity for most of Cvicker’s claims because Meyer, a veteran officer with more than 30 years experience, was acting in an appropriate capacity as a police officer.

However, Callahan felt that discrepancies over what items were actually taken during a summer 2005 search warrant at Cvicker’s business, Whitewater Rock and Mulch, should be heard before the court.

The warrant was to collect evidence showing alleged identity theft by Cvicker’s employees and any evidence of alleged contact between Cvicker and another employee that might show Cvicker was violating bail conditions.

Cvicker alleges Meyer orchestrated the search and took items unrelated to the warrant, including divorce papers, personal letters, e-mails, business sale documents and more.

Meyer admits to shredding copies of several original documents that were taken beyond the scope of the search warrant, but said Cvicker should still have the originals. Meyer denied taking anything else that was not part of the warrant.

Callahan agreed that the search warrant was valid, but the execution of the warrant was problematic.

“By allegedly exceeding the scope of the warrant and destroying property obtained during the execution of the warrant, Meyer... ‘would have known that his conduct violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights,’” Callahan wrote in his ruling.

Following the execution of the warrant, Meyer contacted Assistant District Attorney Dennis Krueger, who was assigned the investigation.

Krueger wrote in a declaration, filed in U.S. District Court, that to his “surprise and disbelief,” Meyer admitted to him that he destroyed items taken outside of the warrant.

Meyer never told nor showed Krueger what the items were, Krueger wrote.

Krueger had advised Meyer to return the items that were not part of the warrant and instructed him to document everything that was destroyed.

Callahan relied heavily on Krueger’s declaration in making his determination.

“I conclude that Cvicker has set fourth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial,” Callahan wrote. “Specifically, Cvicker has presented evidence that Meyer knowingly seized items outside the scope of the warrant, was aware that some of these items were of personal interest and not evidence of any crime and purposely destroyed these items.”

 

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