Judge reduces legal fees after alleged false arrests of two men in Utah

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BRIGHAM CITY, Utah (AP) — A northwestern Utah county must pay $135,200 in attorney fees for the alleged false arrests of two Black men after a federal judge reduced the original amount owed by Box Elder County by about $90,000.

Judge Dale Kimball’s Sept. 10 ruling stems from the December 2016 arrests of Nehemiah McFarlin and Atoa Fox, two Idaho State University students and football players, the Standard-Examiner reported.

Police arrested Fox and McFarlin after a man described as Black robbed a bank in Malad, Idaho earlier in the day. They were both jailed overnight before being released without charges.

An Ogden man, also Black, was arrested for the robbery weeks later, and was convicted and sent to prison, authorities said.

Fox and McFarlin filed a lawsuit in 2018 against Box Elder County, Oneida County, Idaho, and the Utah Highway Patrol claiming they were the victims of false arrest, racial profiling, excessive force and other civil rights violations.

Oneida authorities launched the investigation, alerting Utah authorities where troopers arrested the men at gunpoint and Box Elder deputies took them to jail, according to the lawsuit. Combined McFarlin and Fox received settlements of $10,200 from Box Elder County, $15,000 from Oneida County and $21,000 from the Utah Highway Patrol.

Attorney fees and costs were included in the settlements for Oneida County and the Utah Highway Patrol, but not for Box Elder County. Attorneys for the county filed motions to overturn the $225,600 claim by Idaho Falls attorney Bron Rammell as excessive. Rammell is representing both McFarlin and Fox.

Kimball ruled that the request was unreasonable after arguing there was a contrast between the Box Elder settlement amount and legal fees owed by the defendants where one defendant would have paid more than three times the amount of money in fees than it received from all three defendants in settlements.

Private attorney R. Blake Hamilton argued the county’s case.

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