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City cop awarded $100,000 apology

Correction: A previous version of this article should have indicated the plaintiff agreed to accept the videotaped apology in lieu of the monetary award. We regret the error. Below is the corrected version.

A St. Louis police officer won a $100,000 apology against a woman who filed a false complaint against him.

St. Louis Circuit Judge David Dowd entered the judgment against Cassidy Harris on Monday. He also awarded Officer Michael Haman interest and costs.

But Haman’s lawyer said the officer agreed to accept a videotaped apology in lieu of the monetary award.

Harris also issued a videotaped apology to all members of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department acknowledging her allegations against Haman were false and “subjected Officer Haman to undeserved ridicule,” according to Haman’s lawyer, Albert S. Watkins, of Kodner, Watkins, Muchnick, Weigley & Brison in Clayton.

According to an excerpt provided by Watkins, Harris also said, “I regret that my statements were taken by the Internal Affairs Department and acted on in a reckless and rash fashion before speaking with me to clarify the situation and before otherwise conducting a thorough investigation.”

According to Watkins, on Feb. 26, 2008, Haman was working as a security guard at Johnny Gitto’s restaurant when Harris came in and started banging on the bathroom door, causing a disturbance. At the manager’s request, Haman escorted Harris out of the restaurant, Watkins said Thursday.

Early the next morning, Harris called the police to make a formal complaint against Haman, who joined the force in 1988, Watkins said. Claiming that her great-grandfather had been a St. Louis police chief, Harris claimed Haman had a customer performing sexual acts on him in the bathroom. She said Haman “looks like a rapist” and was “being nothing but a loser for the badge,” Watkins said.

The lawyer said she called the internal affairs department later that day to repeat the allegation of sexual activity and to add an allegation that he was using cocaine in the restaurant bathroom.

“All that was missing was the rock ‘n’ roll,” Watkins said.

Harris represented herself until November, when she hired Philip H. Dennis to take her case. He did not return a phone call seeking comments.

Haman was put on desk duty during the weeklong internal affairs investigation, which cleared the officer when Harris admitted she didn’t see Haman doing any of the things she alleged in her complaint. Instead, she said somebody standing in line for the bathroom told Harris what she repeated to the police.

Haman sued in April 2008 when the department decided not to take action against Harris for filing a false complaint.

“The only avenue that he had to be able to address rectifying the situation and being vindicated was to take it upon himself to move forward with the filing of this civil action,” Watkins said.

Haman was humiliated in the eyes of his wife and his fellow officers, Watkins said. He had to take a drug test, which was clean, and he had to undergo the increased scrutiny from the internal affairs department, the lawyer said.

It could have been avoided, Watkins said, if internal affairs had acted quickly to request the restaurant’s security tape. By the time of the request, the video had been taped over, he said.

During the course of the litigation, Watkins obtained a court order to have the St. Louis Sheriff’s Office take custody of Harris until she appeared for a videotaped deposition, he said.