Boise & Garden City

After mediation fails, Ada County police brutality lawsuit heads to trial

Adam Saetrum
Adam Saetrum

A Boise man will try to convince a federal court jury that a sheriff’s sergeant struck him with his patrol car - intentionally - during a police drug buy four years ago at Boise Towne Square.

Sgt. Jake Vogt of the Ada County Sheriff’s Office maintains he may have bumped Adam T. Saetrum with the door of his police cruiser as he got out to apprehend the suspect. But Vogt said it wasn’t enough to cause Saetrum to lose his balance in the mall’s parking lot.

Saetrum claimed he injured his knee and was knocked to the ground. He’s seeking $7,835 for treatment of his knee injury, $60,000 for pain and suffering and up to $250,000 in punitive damages.

The trial, which is expected to last five days, began Tuesday with jury selection. The trial comes after the two sides were unable to reach an agreement during mediation talks last month with a judge who is not involved in the case.

Last last year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a reasonable jury could find that Vogt intentionally struck Saetrum with the car. Vogt denies that he struck Saetrum on purpose.

On Feb. 26, 2013, Saetrum got in an undercover officer’s pickup truck in the mall parking lot and showed him nearly a pound of marijuana, valued at $2,600. The officer told Saetrum he had to go inside the mall to retrieve his money from a friend.

Vogt and another deputy, driving marked patrol cars, drove toward the pickup to arrest Saetrum. Two other officers drove toward Saetrum’s car, parked about 50 feet away, to arrest two men waiting inside it.

As Vogt approached the pickup, Saetrum got out and began walking toward his car. Vogt accelerated slightly and intercepted him.

The defense says Saetrum did not complain about injuries after he was booked into the Ada County Jail, despite being asked a standard set of health-related questions.

“It was noted that Saetrum was not walking with a stagger, did not look disheveled and did not appear to be in pain,” the defense said in its trial brief.

The following day, a jail nurse saw Saetrum and reported that he “interacted normally,” and the nurse did not notice any signs of injury. The nurse offered medical assistance for any issues he may have had, but he told the nurse he didn’t need anything, according to the brief.

Later that day, Saetrum appeared for a video arraignment and neither he nor his father, Rod Saetrum, a lawyer who represented his son, mentioned Saetrum being hit by a car or suffering injuries during his arrest for offering to sell slightly less than a pound of marijuana.

The first time Saetrum raised the issue, the defense said, was during a subsequent court hearing on April 9, 2013. The defense said the injury claim came only after Saetrum learned he would not be offered a plea deal.

Saetrum pleaded guilty in state court to possessing with intent to deliver a controlled substance. He spent four months in the Correctional Alternative Placement Program in 2014.