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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah man says it was clear he wasn't the one who robbed a bank two years ago, but police arrested him anyway in a case that was dropped once they found the right suspect.
Now Kerry Jason Maw is suing the two Ogden detectives who he says arrived at his home in June 2019 without a warrant after a police chief in a different town who knew Maw identified him as the suspect, according to the lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Salt Lake City.
Maw alleges the detectives violated his right to due process, unlawfully searched and detained him and either made false statements or omitted important details in a probable cause affidavit. He is seeking damages to be awarded at trial for emotional distress, attorney fees, loss of work in his job as a home inspector and humiliation, among other factors.
After someone made off with about $5,000 in cash from a Wells Fargo bank in Ogden on June 4, 2019, now-retired Harrisville Police Chief Max Jackson spoke with Ogden police and noted Maw bore a resemblance to the man in a photo captured from bank surveillance footage, the lawsuit says. Ogden police agreed, concluding the suspect wore black-rimmed glasses similar to a pair Maw has worn and that a portion of cartilage on the suspect's ear known as the tragus was similar to Maw's.
But Maw, 50, says he didn't match key descriptors of the suspect as about 6 feet tall, in his 60s and with distinctive wrinkles on his face. He contends police didn't take steps to investigate, like searching a state motor vehicle database to find anyone whose vehicle matched the sort of green Dodge truck the robber reportedly drove away in.
The officers "unreasonably closed their eyes to the facts" and ignored evidence, Maw's attorney wrote in the suit, contending a "reasonable detective would conclude that other than being a white male, the physical characteristics of the plaintiff clearly lack the distinct multiple lines and wrinkles of the suspect's face and unusual shape of the robbery suspect."
Police ultimately arrested another man, Anthony Thomas Murdzak, after finding a matching truck parked in front of his Logan home. He later pleaded guilty to charges tied to the robbery and another that happened later that month, helping police to track him down.
Maw alleges his former wife had told Jackson she believed Maw to be the suspect.
Police haven't said how Jackson knew Maw, citing what they said was "sensitive personal information" and safety concerns. Maw has previously said they knew each other from church.
He alleges it was after nightfall on June 4, 2019, when his dogs had started barking and he saw beams from several flashlights crisscrossing the yard, so he was "terrified" and hid in the basement. Police violently banged on the door, demanded he open it and arrested him at gunpoint without a warrant, he says, even though no one was hurt in the robbery and there was no weapon involved.
He spent the night in jail before bailing out.
An attorney for Maw didn't return a message Wednesday, and attempts to reach the detectives were unsuccessful.