McKinney case against City settled

By: 
Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter

Library photo The house at 112 North First Street, Bearcreek, that law enforcement raided in 2016.

On Nov. 2, a judgment was filed against the City of Red Lodge, Red Lodge Police Chief Steven Hibler and Officer Greg Srock in the civil case filed by Tiffany McKinney for the total amount of $25,000.
The case involved the search and seizure of property at a Bearcreek residence by Red Lodge Police on Jan. 24, 2016. The case, filed in Feb. by McKinney, was followed in April, by the announcement of the resignation of the police chief (June 30), and has finally been resolved.
McKinney’s attorney, Ray Kuntz, of Red Lodge explained, “The City, Srock and Hibler actually offered judgment pursuant to Rule 68, so Tiffany has judgment against the City rather than a settlement.  In terms of any public comment, she would like me to limit that to the following: "The City, ex-Chief Hibler and Officer Srock acknowledged that Tiffany would win at trial and offered to have judgment entered against them. The judgment is a permanent record in the District Court vindicating her rights and she feels that this is an appropriate conclusion to the case."
According to Mark Libby, the Bozeman attorney representing the City of Red Lodge, “No responsibility was admitted” in the settlement.
The issues were debated for months amongst the community, and even involved comments from the Attorney General’s office and the County Attorney’s office.
The settlement came before any decision was made on a motin for Summary Judgment filed by Srock and joined by the City and Hibler.
Attorney Brendon Rohan, of Butte, represents Srock.
The motion had claimed that it was not a warrantless search but that the home behind the premise under the warrant was a “detached curtilage” located on the property covered by the search warrant. It also claimed Srock had the right to “temporarily detain and restrain Plaintiff during the execution of the search warrant, including the use of necessary and reasonable force.
Srock claimed he was not required to notify or obtain permission from the town of Bearcreek to execute the search warrant.” Clearing the area was a safety concern and she was released afterwards when it was determined she had no involvement with the alleged criminal activity on the searched premises.
It was further claimed that his jurisdiction was not limited by statutory provision stating in the motion, “A search warrant may be issued by: a city or municipal judge or justice of the peace within the judge’s geographic jurisdiction; or a district court judge within this state.”
As such, it was argued, “Justice of the Peace Kevin Nichols was authorized to issue the search warrant in the town of Bearcreek because it was located in Carbon County.”
On Feb. 5, McKinney, a resident of Bearcreek, had sued the city and officers named, in Carbon County District Court claiming damages of at least a million dollars.
McKinney’s suit alleged violations of her rights to privacy and due process and an unlawful search and seizure. Also alleged are false arrest, imprisonment, assault and battery, trespass, negligence and negligent supervision (city).
The defendants were alleged to have violated their duty of care causing McKinney to fall on the ice while illegally restrained and in the course of being forcibly removed from her residence against her will. Srock was alleged to have forced her to her knees, handcuffing her wrists behind her back.
Brant Light, chief of the Prosecution Services Bureau in the AG’s office, had written a letter to Carbon County Attorney Alex Nixon that he believed the Bearcreek search, conducted by police officers without the prior approval of the Carbon County attorney or sheriff, “was inappropriate.” The AG’s office declined to prosecute.
The Carbon County Sheriff denied knowing anything about the search beforehand. The County claimed that Srock, who was a sheriff’s reserve deputy, did not represent the county when he applied for the Bearcreek search warrant. He was informed he would no longer work as a reserve deputy shortly after, in February.

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