THE VERDICT: Kremmling police chief and sergeant found liable in excessive force trial; Smith ‘happy to return’ to Kremmling
DENVER — After four hours of deliberation the jury in the case of Robert Mark Smith vs. Kremmling came to a unanimous decision in favor of the plaintiff, Smith, bringing to close the trial that started more than a week ago and end to a four-year dispute between Smith and the Kremmling Police Department.
Smith, a resident of Kremmling, filed a lawsuit against the town as well as Chief Scott Spade, Sgt. Todd Willson and Officer Robert Dillon of the Kremmling Police Department in 2015. He claimed that members of the department entered his home and used excessive force while arresting him during an altercation two years earlier.
Smith stated in a complaint that he believed the incident was retaliation for several letters he sent to town officials protesting what he called “selective enforcement” of certain laws that singled him out.
Smith was awarded over $350,000 in compensatory damages from the town of Kremmling. He was also awarded over $250,000 from Willson and over $175,000 from Spade in punitive damages, totalling nearly $800,000.
The jury found that Dillon wasn’t responsible, but determined both Willson and Spade were liable for the excessive force charge. Spade was not present the night of the 2013 altercation, but approved the operation.
“Juries tend to hold command staff more accountable,” stated Darold Killmer, Smith’s attorney. “As they should. They’re more than just titles.”
While Willson and Spade were personally responsible for paying damages, Killmer said it is common for municipalities such as Kremmling to cover the costs. The defense will also have to pay for Smith’s attorney fees.
The defense is expected to file a Rule 50B motion in the coming weeks, which could nullify the jury’s verdict if approved. A Rule 50A motion was filed by the defense after evidence closed, but was denied. The defense also has the option to appeal the verdict.
After the verdict, Smith said that he didn’t have any specific plans, but that he was happy to return to Kremmling.
“I had my day in court,” said Smith. “I took an oath to defend the constitution, which I did in Vietnam. So I’m glad we have this system. Maybe now I can relax and take my place as a citizen of Kremmling.
Both Willson and Dillon returned to duty with the Kremmling Police Department today and were not present for the verdict. Spade and his attorney left without answering questions. Kremmling Town Manager Mark Campbell said that the town is considering all possibilities regarding the verdict and the police department, but declined to elaborate.
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