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Jury rules against Winnipeg woman who sued cops over drug raid

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A Winnipeg woman who was arrested during a dramatic drug raid of her home — then released without charge — has lost her lawsuit against city police.

Jurors reached their verdict in the rare civil court trial following only a few hours of deliberations.

Gerilyn Riedle, 52, was seeking extensive financial damages, claiming she was the victim of a malicious arrest, false imprisonment and defamation of character. Her lawyer, John Michaels, says police actions were "over the top."

But six citizens who heard more than a week of evidence sided with the police in ruling against Riedle.

In closing arguments earlier this week, the lawyer representing police had said Riedle only has herself to blame for the 2009 incident.

"The taxpayers of Winnipeg should not be paying for the decisions she’s made," Denise Pambrun told jurors.

Police had obtained a search warrant for Riedle’s home on the belief her 19-year-old son was selling drugs. A magistrate authorized them to do a "dynamic" entry, which included setting off a flash bomb, breaking down the door and arresting everyone inside.

That included Riedle, who claims she was so humiliated by the ordeal that she had to quickly sell her home at less than market value to get out of the neighbourhood.

But police lawyers argued the evidence was clear that Riedle should have known her son had drugs in the home. Police found paraphernalia sitting on the dining room table, the interior smelled of marijuana and officers observed a drug deal go down in their driveway just hours before the raid.

"Maybe she just looked the other way in the face of some facts she didn’t want to see," Pambrun told jurors. "She chose to ignore it. And when she came face to face with the consequences of that decision, she ran (by selling her home). It’s not what the police did to her that made her run. It’s the consequences of her decision."

Riedle’s son ultimately took responsibility for the 18 grams of marijuana and other paraphernalia found in his bedroom.

Officers involved in the incident testified last week, telling jurors what happened to Riedle is an unfortunate necessity of the job and sometimes innocent people will get caught in their web.

They said all proper procedures were followed and officers acted as prescribed by both the law and their extensive training. Police claim these types of tactics are needed during drug investigations because they often encounter members of organized crime, weapons and offenders who will do almost anything to escape arrest.

Pambrun said Tuesday that Riedle had failed to show any other method that could have been used on that night.

"You can’t just come in here and say ‘I don’t think the police should do it this way.’ You have to bring some evidence," she said. "This is not Dr. Oz. We’re not here to talk about how we feel. We’re here to talk about evidence."

www.mikeoncrime.com

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