Woman files suit over her arrest in Seattle May Day protest

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In this screen grab from a cell phone video, Seattle police can be seen yanking Maria Morales (in cream-colored coat) off of her bicycle and to the ground on May 1, 2012.

SEATTLE — Seattle police had their hands full when violence erupted during the May Day protests. But Maria Morales says those officers never had a reason to put their hands on her or arrest her, and she is now suing the city and police department.

“I have somebody’s knee right on my neck, I can’t breathe. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what I did wrong, I don’t know what I’m being arrested for,” Morales, 30, said in an interview Friday, recalling that incident May 1 in downtown Seattle when police took her down, cuffed her and took her off to jail. She was later charged with assault.

Seattle police officer Sonya Fry said in a probable cause statement that the action was taken because Morales had cursed at her and punched her in the chest.

Morales’ lawyer, Darryl Parker, said Morales likely would have been convicted of the assault charge. “If it’s your testimony against the testimony of a police officer, you’re going to lose every time,” he said.

Unless one has video proof. And Parker said they found some proof, from a cell phone video posted on YouTube.

The video shows Fry grabbing Morales and throwing her to the ground, where Morales is swarmed by other officers.

“Maria’s just lucky that that video’s out there,” Parker said. “That changes the whole case.”

Parker said that as soon as prosecutors saw the video, they dropped the case against Morales. But the damage was already done.

Morales, a veteran of the Iraq war, lost her job as an emergency medical technician, and then lost her apartment. Morales contends that was due to her arrest.

“Having to deal with this put a lot of stress on me, and I didn’t know how it was going to affect my baby so that made it even worse,” Morales said, who is pregnant.

The Seattle Police Department refused to comment on the case, but Morales and her lawyer hope her lawsuit against the city will send a message about what they say was a false arrest and a cover-up.

“I want to believe the reason people do their job is because they like it, and they’re (police officers) there to protect citizens and this is not something they should have done,” Morales said.

Morales and her lawyer are also asking anyone else who may have pictures or video of her arrest to come forward. They wouldn’t disclose how much money they are seeking in their lawsuit against the city and the police department.

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  • Wrapper98439

    The video does not show what she did prior to being arrested. The photographer was offered 25% of her haul. Wonder what it is worth to the city for video showing she was assulting officers prior to this video

    • Jillian

      If you have something, you shouldn't hold back. Unless you have something showing this woman on an exchange of physical contact with a police officer, and it's mouthing off like the other video shows, there are really no grounds for her arrest regardless of what she was saying.

  • reallynow

    Sorry this "libtard" – yes I'm a classified "libtard "- has a very hard time with the 99 percenters, especially in Seattle. A one night arrest made her lose her job & her apt…and who knows what? I'm not sure we have all the details, or if she is telling the truth, until then I call BS. It's like a NFL call without a replay, you cannot see the full picture without mulitple angles or at the very least a few seconds before the released video.

    • Brian

      Oh shut up reallynow.. you're a moron! This is another legitimate case of police brutality. Seattle police are the greatest and SKETCHY AS HELL with incidences just like this. This is just another number of Seattle police doing shady stuff. Everybody knows our police department is crooked, don't try to hide it or take their side. Cops are sketchy man, get used to it… it's called government corruption.

  • Jillian

    @Wrapper- this video does not show what she did before being arrested. I agree. There is a longer version of this out there which does show her mouthing off at officers arresting other individuals. Last I checked, this action has NO GROUNDS for being arrested, unless there was physical contact… which according to that video, there wasn't.

    @reallynow- anyone that has ANYTHING negative on your background, especially a felony can tell you otherwise. From previous reports, she was "let go" because she had a clear background up until that point. NFL call, or not, you are right. There are many angles to any story, but how stupid was it for that cop to lie on paper knowing there were many witnesses with camaras rolling. Just saying.

  • BubbaJoeBob

    I was here back during WTO and there were several people who ended up in the same boat as this lady. One observation I had was: What was she doing there??? I think here in Seattle, there are those who consider civil unrest a spectator sport. Sure, maybe she was doing nothing, but when the police show up all of the people who are there look like protesters. I was nowhere near Seattle during WTO or the May Day melee (sorry could not resist) and guess what? Nothing happened to me.

    • Jillian

      I did attend the Mayday rally. Nothing happened to me either, but you know, things don't change because people stay home and do nothing about things that do involve everyone. We have seen these incidents happen time and time again, and unfortunately, these people pay the price for those who choose to stay at home yet enjoy the rights that everyone else decided to stand up for everyone to have.

  • John

    The video shows nothing of Ms Morales' behavior that caused her arrest.

    Further, Ms Morales claims she lost her job as an EMT. It must be quite a commute for her to Oregon or Idaho to work, as she has no record of being a registered EMT with the state of Washington, which is required by law. No employer in the state will hire you without the required state registration.

  • Mikessp

    Man, what's with some of the stupid comments posted above.

    First off, if she was attacking officers earlier, she should have been arrested THEN. Regardless, she was committing no act of violence at the time of being assaulted/decked and that's a HUGE issue. The officer could have simply called her over and arrested her for the presumed prior violence. If she ran or resisted after being told she was "under arrest", then they could get physical with her.

    But one cannot simply tackle another, without warning, pre-arrest, when nothing dangerous to the officer is happening at that moment.

    Two, the prosecutors dropped the case for a reason.

    Three, as for costing her a job as an EMT, that does not mean she was employed at the time, but may have been applying and disqualified for not making it to an interview due to being in jail, for example, or by her arrest in general.

    Nobody knows what this cost her. She may have had too much personal wealth for a public defender and may have emptied her bank account paying for an attorney until the video came forward. Knowing, as shown in the video, that she was falsely accused, she likely didn't feel a felony on her record was not worth fighting to prevent.

    As she was going to be charged for felony assault, this officers should be charged as well. Same charge.

    Two other bits. One, this officer has to be ABSOLUTELY STUPID. She did this with all the cameras rolling, AND ON TOP OF IT, COMMITTED A SERIOUS OFFENSE BY FILING A FALSE REPORT. Additionally, the arrested women, from other stories, is an Iraq war vet. At least to me, that gives her a bit of credibility and respect. She certainly worked under authority for likely at least 2-4 years.

    Mike S

  • MM

    False police are frowned upon at the police department, but I’m not certain if it’s a crime or not. You can get away with it, it’s not a big issue.

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