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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Cop Cleared for Arresting Alleged Mom-Abuser

(CN) - A woman who was arrested for shoving her mother into a wheelchair at a nursing home cannot sue her arresting officer, the 8th Circuit ruled.

Sgt. Jason Leonard, a police officer in Waverly, Iowa, arrested Maxine Gail Veatch for allegedly assaulting her mother, Agnes Bell, at the Woodland Terrace nursing home.

After a nurse reported witnessing the incident, the staff discovered bruising on Bell's knee and forearms and they called the police.

Leonard took statements from the staff, questioned Veatch at the nursing home, and arrested Veatch.

When a jury found Veatch not guilty of misdemeanor assault charges, Veatch and her sister, Chris Price, sued Leonard, Waverly, Bartels Lutheran Home, which operates Woodland Terrace, and two Bartels employees.

The sisters appealed after the lower court granted summary judgment in favor of Leonard and the city on the civil rights claim.

They claim Leonard violated Veatch's Fourth Amendment rights, and that Waverly was liable for failing to train Leonard properly.

The St. Louis-based federal appeals panel affirmed the lower court's ruling.

"In this case, the information that Leonard received during the course of his investigation established probable cause," Judge Steven Colloton wrote for the court. "Veatch maintains that the information provided by Bartels was unreliable, because it included only second-hand accounts from individuals who had a turbulent history with Veatch. Although Leonard did not speak before the arrest to anyone who witnessed the incident, 'probable-cause determinations generally may be based on hearsay.'"

Colloton added that Leonard had no reason to doubt the credibility of the nursing home staff members he interviewed, and Bell's bruises corroborated the assault allegations.

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