Sam Salter, the Hudson, Wis., man who spent two days in jail after a state trooper rammed his van on New Year's Eve, has agreed to a $9,500 settlement to compensate him for what the State Patrol acknowledges was a mishandled traffic stop.
"I want the matter to be over," Salter said. "I don't want to spend the time litigating. I'm not interested in making money off this event."
The State Patrol on Wednesday announced that it had reprimanded trooper Carrie Rindal after a review board found that she had made several errors while stopping and arresting Salter along Interstate 94 in St. Paul.
Salter, who proposed the $9,500 settlement to attorneys for the State Patrol, said his expenses included $2,200 in body work, $130 for a ticket he got for an improper lane-change, and $140 for an impound fee from the lot to which they towed his Toyota Sienna.
A part-time college instructor, Salter said he also factored in what he would have been paid for the 37 hours he spent in jail, as well as the time his wife, a nurse, spent trying to get him released. Salter said he added several thousand dollars for aggravation and the amount he expects to pay Minneapolis attorney Robert Bennett.
The incident happened as Salter, 40, drove toward home shortly before midnight with his three young children in the back seat. Rindal wrote in her report that his van was going 70 mph in a 55 zone, weaving in its lane and changing lanes without signaling. She activated her lights and siren. Salter shifted to the right lane, but he later said he had insufficient space to pull over safely because of a snowbank.
Rindal followed him for one minute and 23 seconds as he exited on Hwy. 61 and slowly turned right onto Burns Av. He said he was slowing to stop when she hit his van with a P.I.T. (pursuit intervention technique) maneuver that is used to stop fleeing vehicles. She then arrested him for fleeing.
The review board watched a video of the incident captured by a camera in the squad car.
The State Patrol on Wednesday summarized the review board's findings but refused to release its report. However, after discussions between attorneys for the Star Tribune and the State Patrol, the patrol concluded that the document was public data and gave it to the paper Thursday with one sentence blacked out.
No intent to flee
The report said that "the board did not believe that the driver was actively intending to flee the trooper." The report also said that the P.I.T. maneuver attempt did not follow patrol training standards. It called Rindal's report "inadequate," saying it lacked the "elements to charge" Salter with fleeing.
But the board also concluded that when Rindal attempted to pull Salter over on I-94, "there appears to be a safe shoulder location where a stop could have been made by the driver."
It said Rindal was right to arrest him at gunpoint because Salter came out of the van "yelling and approaching slightly toward the squad [car]."
"This is a sensible settlement for both parties, given the circumstances," said Bennett, noting it might have taken two or three years to litigate. He said a legal concept called "qualified immunity" insulates from liability a police officer or government official "who violates a plaintiff's constitutional rights -- as long as the official did not violate clearly established federal law."
Bennett said experts would have disagreed over whether Salter should have pulled over sooner. While State Patrol officials have yet to sign the $9,500 settlement, Bennett said he anticipated they would because the state attorney general's office prepared the documents.
That office referred questions to the patrol, which declined to comment.
Randy Furst • 612-673-7382