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BREAKING: Federal Judge Rules For Former Councilman Craig Hedquist Against City, Former Police Chief

Tom Morton, Townsquare Media
Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

The litigation of a federal lawsuit filed by former Casper City councilman Craig Hedquist against the city and former Police Chief — now councilman — Chris Walsh will proceed after a federal judge dismissed their motion to dismiss the case Monday.

U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson ruled against the request to dismiss the lawsuit in which Hedquist alleges Walsh, at the request of former City Manager John Patterson, illegally used a law enforcement database to research his background, according to the complaint filed in October.

Hedquist’s attorney Frank Chapman declined to comment on the ruling other than to say, “We’re pleased with the court’s decision.”

Anna Reeves Oslon, who represents Walsh, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

This case arose from another federal case filed by Hedquist against Patterson, in which he learned of the searches about him. That case filed in 2014 alleges Patterson tried to retaliate against him after criticisms over a land deal during the summer of 2012. Patterson then met with city council candidates to try to thwart Hedquist’s election that fall. That case is scheduled for trial in June.

In the new lawsuit, Hedquist asserts Patterson asked Walsh to research Hedquist’s background using a national database. Walsh initially declined. The database requires law enforcement agencies to comply with laws, specifically the Driver Privacy Protection Act, that require subscribers use it for actions such as protecting against fraud; investigating matters related to public safety; or acting on behalf of federal, state or local courts.

But on July 29, 2013, Walsh asked a police department employee to conduct a search that resulted in a 124-page report with personal and business information, and information about relatives, associates and neighbors. A week later, Walsh and Patterson talked about the results of the search, according to the lawsuit.

Walsh and the city responded with a motion asking the court to dismiss the case, saying Hedquist did not prove that they accessed his information for an impermissible purpose.

But Johnson wrote Hedquist provided enough evidence — results of the search, use of a police database used more than 40 times to research him and his company, audio of a conversation between Walsh and Patterson, and a deposition of Walsh — to show their concerted effort to obtain information.

“Drawing on the Court’s judicial experience and common sense, Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged Defendants obtained Plaintiff’s personal information for an impermissible purpose,” Johnson wrote.

Attorneys for Walsh and the city now will have the opportunity to file a response Johnson’s decision. Both sides will file motions for summary judgment asking the court to rule in their favor. If the court does not rule, then the case will go to trial.

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