Linn County will pay $285,000 to a man wrongly arrested because of a photo on Facebook

Jerry Vander Sanden (left) being sworn in at the start of his second term as Linn County Attorney in 2015. — photo courtesy of Linn County

Linn County announced on Wednesday it is paying $285,000 to settle a federal lawsuit against the county and County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden. Joseph McBride had filed the lawsuit earlier this month, claiming that his rights had been violated when Vander Sanden signed an arrest warrant containing false information that led to McBride being arrested and jailed for two months.

McBride, a former Cedar Rapids resident who has lived in Arizona since 2015, was arrested at his Phoenix home in August for an assault and robbery that took place in Cedar Rapids on Jan. 1, 2017.

“It was August 24th,” McBride told KCRG-TV during an interview, just after the charges against him were dismissed. “There was no knock, just a truck pulled up on the side of the building.”

Cedar Rapids police suspected McBride because he was a Facebook friend of another suspect, and he matched the general description of one the people who committed the robbery and assault: a light-skinned African-American. The victim also tentatively identified McBride from a photo Cedar Rapids officers downloaded from Facebook.

Investigators never spoke to McBride prior to his arrest. If they had, they would have learned McBride could produce evidence proving he was in Arizona at the time of the crime. McBride’s attorney furnished that evidence and offered witnesses to prove McBride’s whereabouts on Jan. 1, 2017 to the Linn County Attorney’s Office even before McBride’s month-long trip in a prisoner transport van from Phoenix to Cedar Rapids was complete, but McBride still spent a further 32 days in jail after reaching Linn County. It wasn’t until the day after one of the people involved in the crime started cooperating with the police finally said McBride wasn’t involved that charges were dropped and he was released.

McBride spent 61 days in custody.

In his lawsuit, McBride alleged “Vander Sanden intentionally or recklessly made false sworn statements in a criminal complaint and arrest warrant that led to McBride’s wrongful arrest and wrongful prosecution.”

After the lawsuit was filed, Little Village contacted Vander Sanden for comment.

“I am unable to comment on the McBride matter since I have not yet been served with a copy of the lawsuit,” he replied via email. “However, I have every confidence that a fair and impartial adjudication will be made on the merits of the lawsuit in federal court.”

The $285,000 payment will spare the county and Vander Sanden from that fair and impartial adjudication.

In a statement to the Associated Press regarding the settlement, Linn County Board of Supervisors President John Harris said, “A person doesn’t like to think that mistakes can be made, but everybody’s human. We just have to acknowledge our mistakes, in most cases right them and move on.”

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