City settles two suits involving improper arrests at DUI checkpoints
The city has paid out nearly $41,000 total in two separate lawsuits where the Cape Coral police were accused of false arrests at DUI checkpoints.
The city settled earlier this month with Vincent Tallo and James Wilhelm. On July 13, the city agreed to a $22,000 settlement with Tallo, while on July 15, it entered into a $18,750 settlement agreement with Wilhelm, officials said.
In September 2009, Tallo and his girlfriend ran into a sobriety checkpoint operated by the Cape police. Tallo participated in field sobriety tests and was was given a breathalyzer test, which he blew 0.00 on three separate times.
Police then asked Tallo to take a urine test, believing that he was on drugs. An officer reportedly found a presence of drugs in the sample and Tallo was issued a citation and notice to appeal for DUI — pending urine — checkpoint.
Because police had had Tallo’s vehicle towed from the scene, Tallo and his girlfriend were forced to walk more than two miles to his girlfriend’s home.
The state later nolle prossed — did not prosecute — Tallo’s DUI charge.
In March 2009, Wilhelm came across a sobriety checkpoint also operated by the Cape police. He reportedly asked to take a breathalyzer or blood test due to recently having open heart surgery, but was he given field sobriety tests.
After being placed under arrest following the tests, Wilhelm was waiting to take a breath test when he reportedly complained of severe chest pains. He was taken to the hospital, where he demanded a blood test to prove that he had no alcohol and drugs in his system.
On July 24, the DUI charge against Wilhelm was nolle prossed by the state.
Attorney Michelle Berthiaume represented both men in the lawsuits.
“Generally, nobody’s overly happy with a settlement,” she said Tuesday, adding that all of the parties recognized that it was in their best interest.
“The biggest issue was the indignation of what happened to them,” she said.
Berthiaume noted that lab tests showed nothing in their systems.
“The only thing that they’re guilty of was being old,” she said, referring to their ages playing a role in physically limiting them during the field tests.
At the time of their arrests, Tallo was 72 and Wilhelm was 61.
“There’s been a lot of complaints about the Cape Coral Police Department,” she said. “But this was the first time that the individuals and circumstances were optimist.”
Berthiaume explained that the men did not have records, that they had no reason to lie about what happened and that there were creditable witnesses who were able to report that the men had not partaken in alcohol or drugs.
She said she and her clients hope the Cape police will be more careful when they conduct DUI operations in the future and not repeat their mistakes.