In the early morning hours of December 29, 2019, a man violently beat 40-year-old Daniel Jarman in the parking lot outside Ichabod’s East, a Spokane Valley bar.

Jarman, an Army veteran and father of two, died days later at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

On January 2, 2020, while Jarman was still alive in the hospital, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Detachment. Marc Melville arrested Joe Riley, 38, on suspicion of assault. Viewers and newspaper readers learned Riley’s name after the sheriff’s office made the arrest public, and for thousands of county residents, Joe Riley became connected to Jarman’s murder.

Riley spent two weeks in jail, but he was innocent. He wasn’t in that parking lot, he didn’t know Jarman, and he was miles away that night, at his house in South Hill.

Now he is suing the Sheriff’s Office, County Attorney Larry Haskell, Spokane Valley and other defendants for a slew of damages. He’s trying to clear his name and get compensation after he was falsely arrested for first-degree assault, had his name dragged through the mud, and been locked away from his family.

Riley, owner of a Spokane Valley tattoo parlor, said the situation turned her life upside down. He’s racked up thousands of debts, lost business as a tattoo artist, and suffered severe and lasting emotional trauma, not to mention the impact the past two years have had on his wife and children.

“The feeling in the pit of my stomach, it’s horrible,” Riley said. “It’s like one of those dreams you can’t wake up from.”

The sheriff’s office did not respond to requests for comment, but the agency described Riley’s arrest as a case of mistaken identity.

Riley says he doesn’t think it was an honest mix-up. It was just terrible police work and there is no excuse for it, he said.

“They didn’t investigate properly,” Riley said. “It’s not about being stupid; it’s not about making simple mistakes. Where is the responsibility? »

The trial

Riley’s 37-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court alleges the sheriff’s office made a long list of errors while investigating Jarman’s assault. The county attorney’s office declined to comment, saying it was not discussing pending cases.

The key point in the lawsuit is that Melville, the sheriff’s office detective, should have known that Riley was not at Ichabod’s that night in December 2019.

The lawsuit states that an Ichabod dealer assumed Riley’s identity the night of Jarman’s beating.

The Spokesman-Review does not use the man’s name because he has not been charged by prosecutors in connection with Jarman’s death.

However, the sheriff’s office found the man’s DNA in the car where Jarman was sitting moments before his beating. Ichabod had bar receipts in the man’s name that night – there were no receipts with Riley’s name – and phone records suggest he was in the area. The man has a criminal record and was previously charged in Superior Court with making threatening phone calls.

Riley said it was incredibly frustrating that the man has not been charged.

“Why is my name plastered everywhere, across the country, across the world?” he said.

The sheriff’s office arrested Riley without any physical evidence, linking him to the murder, Riley said, alleging the sheriff’s office and the county attorney did little to bring the real killer to justice.

“They came after Joe so hard, locked him up and threw him in jail, and now they have a guy, they have even more evidence on him, they’re not charging him at all,” said Doug Phelps, L Riley’s lawyer.

Even though the man was pretending to be Riley that night, Melville should have quickly and easily realized that he wasn’t really the real Joe Riley, for a litany of reasons, according to the lawsuit.

For example, two women witnessed the beating of Jarman. Initially, they both said they didn’t know who assaulted Jarman.

Also, Melville should have known that Riley wasn’t at Ichabod’s house from the video camera footage. The video shows both Jarman and the two female witnesses, but not Riley, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also alleges that Melville withheld material information from the probable cause affidavit for Riley’s arrest.

The affidavit did not mention that Riley had no criminal history and that none of the bar receipts belonged to him, according to the lawsuit.

He also failed to include that an Ichabod bartender told Melville that Riley was not at the bar that night.

two years of hell

When Riley first sat down in his Spokane County Jail cell, he had no idea why he was there. He didn’t learn what he was charged with until he heard his name mentioned in connection with Jarman’s death on television. He put his ear to the cell’s food slot to hear the broadcast.

While in prison, Riley feared she would never get out.

“Those two weeks felt like a lifetime,” he said. “I really thought, ‘Hey, I’m gone.’ I was basically writing goodbye letters to my family.

All the time he was in prison, he was terrified.

“There were people whispering in my ear that they were going to stab me as they passed,” he said.

Riley said his time in prison was made worse because he had Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.

Life did not return to normal immediately after Riley’s release from prison. It did not return to normal even when the charges against him were later dismissed with prejudice.

Riley said he constantly had to prove his innocence to loved ones and strangers. He said people confronted him at the grocery store, when he was buying a jug of milk for his children, and talked to him like he was a murderer. Even though he has been officially cleared of any wrongdoing, the problem keeps coming back.

“Every day I wake up worried,” he said. “I always find myself having to explain myself, like I’ve done something wrong.”

For the first few weeks after returning home, Riley’s wife, Shalee Riley, followed him everywhere.

“That’s how scared my family was for me,” Riley said. “I was going to work, my wife was sitting next to me at work.”

Riley’s tattoo business has also been affected, as he relies primarily on reputation and referrals. He said he lost contracts because of the arrest and news stories linking his name to Jarman’s death. He said he sometimes had to show clients the paperwork exonerating him before they agreed to get tattooed, which he said was demeaning and humiliating.

“I’ve worked so hard to build an audience over the years,” Riley said. “The next thing I know is that everyone is turning their backs on me. Everyone thinks I’m this horrible person.

The lawsuit does not list a specific claim for damages in dollars — Riley and Phelps want a judge or jury to decide the amount. And it’s hard to put a figure on the psychological damage the arrest and false accusations had on Riley and his family. Still, Riley can list some concrete financial losses off the top of his head.

He’s missing $15,000 for posting his $150,000 bond. He had to pay a private detective to investigate what happened at Ichabod’s house. He estimates that he has already spent $25,000 on legal fees.

“I owe a lot of people right now,” Riley said. “I have so much money that I need to repay.”

Riley said the county offered him $25,000 in compensation, which he called a “joke.”

The lawsuit isn’t all about the money, Riley said. He said someone has to hold the sheriff’s office and the district attorney’s office accountable when they make mistakes.

“They had no supporting evidence,” Riley said. “All it took was he said it, she said, and the police ran with it.”

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