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Federal judge tosses Colorado man's lawsuit accusing 2 Lincoln officers of fabricating evidence
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Federal judge tosses Colorado man's lawsuit accusing 2 Lincoln officers of fabricating evidence

From the What you missed this week in notable Southeast Nebraska crimes and court cases series

A federal judge Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit brought against two Lincoln police officers whom a Colorado man accused of fabricating evidence that led to his arrest.

A Lancaster County jury found Lawrence Allen, of Aurora, Colorado, not guilty of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver (a charge that could've gotten him up to 50 years in prison) at a trial in July 2019.

A year later, he sued two narcotics investigators who testified against him — Lincoln Police Officer Chris Monico and Sgt. Jonathan Kossow — accusing them of fabricating evidence, false arrest and malicious prosecution. 

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In a probable cause affidavit to justify Allen's arrest to a judge and the filing of charges to prosecutors, Monico said James T. Brown, Allen's cousin, had sold an undercover officer 3.8 grams of cocaine on April 13, 2016, three minutes after meeting with Allen in a parking lot.

The officer wrote in the affidavit that the investigator on the detail, allegedly referring to Kossow, could see a Black man in the Mitsubishi Outlander when Brown got inside the SUV briefly in the parking lot on the northeast corner of 27th Street and Cornhusker Highway. 

Allen's attorney, Matt Catlett, alleged Kossow couldn't have identified anyone inside Allen's SUV from the grocery store parking lot across 27th Street, let alone the person's race or gender. He said Allen was in a nearby nail salon the entire time and was identified through a traffic stop after he left the nail salon and drove away.

In a decision Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Rossiter Jr. said: "Examining only the undisputed facts, arguable probable cause existed to arrest and detain Allen for the distribution of cocaine on April 13, 2016."

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At the time of his arrest months later, Allen had a substantial amount of cash on him and was seen leaving a known drug storage location with his brother, a known drug dealer who had sold an undercover officer cocaine 13 times, the judge said.

Even if taken as true that the probable cause affidavit contained some false information, he said, Allen didn't make a sufficient showing that the two had conspired to arrest him.

Rossiter said the officers were entitled to qualified immunity and couldn't be sued as public officials carrying out their job. And he dismissed the case.

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Public safety reporter

Lori Pilger is a Norfolk native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been a public safety reporter for the Journal Star since 2005.

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