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Originally published Friday, July 9, 2010 at 8:49 PM

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Detective's negligence civil suit against police department dismissed

A King County Superior Court judge tossed out a civil suit Friday that was filed by a Seattle police detective who claimed the Seattle Police Department disparaged him and negligently provided false information that led to his indictment on a perjury charge.

A King County Superior Court judge tossed out a civil suit Friday that was filed by a Seattle police detective who claimed the Seattle Police Department disparaged him and negligently provided false information that led to his indictment on a perjury charge.

The suit filed by Detective Ronald Smith in April stemmed from an incident during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in which Smith said he shot and wounded a Hells Angel in self-defense during a bar fight Aug. 9, 2008.

King County Superior Court Judge Michael Hayden dismissed Smith's suit on Friday because of a state law that "precludes people from being sued if they provide information to law enforcement," said Kimberly Mills, a spokesman for Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes.

The law — called the Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation or "Anti-SLAPP" — is intended to protect citizens against the threat of civil action for reporting information to federal, state or local agencies.

In Smith's case, members of the Seattle Police Department provided erroneous information to South Dakota officials.

Neither Smith nor his attorney could be reached for comment Friday.

Smith, who was in Sturgis with members of the Iron Pigs, a motorcycle club composed of law-enforcement officers and firefighters, was charged in Meade County, S.D., Circuit Court with the felonies of aggravated assault and perjury. He was charged with a misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.

Prosecutors alleged Smith perjured himself when he claimed he had used a personal firearm, when records obtained from the Seattle Police Department revealed the gun had been issued by the department.

But the perjury charge was dismissed less than a month after the incident after Seattle police discovered the gun Smith used was not a department-issued gun, but was one he bought from the Seattle Police Athletic Association in 1996.

Prosecutors in South Dakota later dismissed the assault and concealed-weapon charges, saying it appeared Smith had been the victim of a premeditated attack and that federal law allows off-duty law-enforcement officers to carry weapons anywhere they choose.

Smith's lawsuit alleged that if not for the Seattle Police Department's negligent and erroneous actions regarding gun ownership, Smith would not have been charged with perjury and, most likely, the other charges "since the South Dakota officials would have believed his statements absent his alleged perjury."

The suit contends a Seattle police commander could have taken routine steps to check the ownership of the gun, including a federal gun trace.

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Smith claimed his reputation was harmed by the criminal charges, according to the suit. Before Friday's dismissal, the case was scheduled to go to trial in October 2011.

The suit also alleged that shortly after the incident, former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said at a public-relations event attended by Smith's fellow officers that Smith was an "embarrassment" to the department and would "not be working for him (Kerlikowske) much longer."

Smith had sought $150,000 for negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, as well as other damages for specific costs and any further relief deemed to be just.

Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

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