Tort Law

Political Spy Case Payout to Activist Includes Some $375K in Attorney's Fees

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A 22-year-old activist from the Evergreen State College in Washington will get $169,000 and his lawyers are expected to get twice as much in settlement of a political spying case that reportedly may have been sparked by a tip-off from the U.S. military that local authorities should keep an eye on Philip Chinn.

Arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in May 2007 while he was en route to an anti-war protest over the use of civilian ports for military purposes, Chinn won the dismissal of the case after tests showed he had no drugs or alcohol in his system, reports the Seattle Times. He subsequently sued for false arrest and violation of his constitutional rights.

The state patrol is funding $109,000 of the settlement to Chinn and local government agencies are picking up the rest of the tab. They have also agreed to pay his legal fees, which the American Civil Liberties Union estimates at $375,000, an ACLU spokesman says.

The ACLU pursued Chinn’s case because it believes the facts suggest U.S. military involvement in spying on activists by local law enforcement, both concerning Chinn and others, is “far more pervasive than we had thought,” spokesman Doug Honig tells the newspaper.

A spokesman says the military provided no intelligence to local authorities concerning Chinn.

Related coverage:

Post-Intelligencer (Nov. 2007): “War protesters make last stand”

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