COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Columbus City Council has approved a $375,000 settlement for a man who said he was wrongfully arrested and jailed.
Timothy Hawkins’ attorney, Fred Gittes, said the entire situation could have been avoided if the Columbus police involved had done better work. The settlement of the federal lawsuit comes almost two years to the day that Hawkins was arrested.
“It’s just like a nightmare, it’s unbelievable,” said Gittes. “He knows he didn’t do anything, throughout all of this. And yet, he’s being put through this just horrible treatment.”
It all stems from a robbery in Columbus in November 2019. Columbus Police Officer Bryan Williams filed aggravated robbery charges against Hawkins for that incident about eight months later, according to court documents. Gittes said those charges were filed despite other suspects being identified early on in the investigation.
“Mr. Hawkins did not match the physical description or any other identifying characteristics of the actual perpetrator of the crime for which he was arrested,” Gittes writes in the complaint. Hawkins is significantly shorter than the initially identified suspects. Gittes also said his client doesn’t know those suspects or the victims.
“The police work on this, it was awful, just awful police work,” said Gittes.
Hawkins lived in Columbus in November 2019, when the robbery happened. He lived in Florida with his family when he was arrested on Sept. 15, 2020. Gittes said Hawkins was arrested at gunpoint by U.S. Marshals in front of his wife and four daughters, went through an invasive cavity search of his body and spent seven days in a Florida jail before charges were dismissed.
“He’s a survivor,” said Gittes. “He works, he loves his family, he’s got a great wife and kids who support him.”
City Council approved the settlement at its meeting on Monday. $239,334.96 is going to Hawkins and $135,665.04 is going to The Gittes Law Group, according to the ordinance.
“After review it was determined there were problems with the witness’s identification of Mr. Hawkins so the city attorney’s office recommends this settlement is in the best interest of the city to avoid potential jury award of damages and award of attorneys’ fees,” said Brian Shinn, Chief of Claims for the Columbus City Attorney.
Gittes said Officer Williams and his sergeant at the time, Sergeant Ray Mester, disregarded evidence which showed Hawkins should have never been a suspect.
“Yes, Tim Hawkins filed this case for himself because of what he went through personally, but he also did it because he hopes it’ll be just one more proven example that will get the division of police and the city to start holding officers accountable,” said Gittes.
NBC4 has reached out to the Columbus Division of Police. They say they are looking into this. NBC4 will update this story with the division’s response.