Man sues Soldotna, citing rights violated during 2021 investigation
A man is suing the city of Soldotna and one particular police officer over what he describes as a mishandled investigation and false warrant.
Martin Anderson, of Sterling, is seeking half a million dollars in damages from the city in a federal suit filed in May. Anderson’s suit alleges that the Soldotna Police Department and one specific officer violated his First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights in an investigation that was later dropped.
“The Fourth Amendment says that I’m not supposed to be subjected to unreasonable search and seizure, and I believe in this case, that’s exactly what happened,” Anderson said. “The facts weren’t established, there was no corroboration of evidence.”
In 2021, Soldotna PD began investigating Anderson because of a complaint by a competing company that he stole proprietary information. An officer got a warrant to search his computer, on the basis that he had transferred files from a work laptop to a personal computer. The warrant was based on interviews with employees at a Soldotna computer store, Computer Renaissance.
But in multiple affidavits, computer store employees say they never told the officer any of the information that ended up in the warrant, and that they never wiped Anderson’s computer at his request.
Anderson said there are other inconsistencies in that warrant, too, like his address and the computer serial number.
“There were over 19 errors that my attorneys and I have found within just a few pages,” he said.
The cop cited in the suit is David Bower, the Soldotna PD officer arrested in July on a fourth-degree assault charge. Bower is currently on administrative leave, and The Peninsula Clarion reports that the department is reviewing its policies because of the incident. Soldotna PD was called to Bower’s home multiple times in the past on reports of domestic violence, but no charges were brought.
In December 2021, Anderson and the other company settled, and told police to drop the investigation. But Anderson’s suit says while it was ongoing, the investigation affected his privacy, resulted in his laptop being inappropriately seized and caused emotional distress.
Anderson is being represented by the Washington, D.C.-based Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower legal advocacy group. The organization took up his case because Anderson filed OSHA and FBI complaints against his former employer, and they see the investigation as retaliatory. The project’s legal director, Tom Devine, described Soldotna PD actions as indefensible, and said Anderson is a case study in how whistleblower rights fail to protect contractors.
In a response to the initial complaint, filed Aug. 11, the attorney for the city and Bower denied each of Anderson’s allegations. City Manager Janette Bower, no relation to Officer Bower, said it will be several months until there’s any movement on the suit. The two parties are scheduled to exchange their discoveries Oct. 2.