By Gail Binkly and David Grant Long
Former Montezuma County Commissioner Larrie and his wife, Pat DeGagne Rule, have filed a notice of intent to sue the Colorado State Patrol and the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office over their treatment during a search of their property on Dec. 12 of last year.
The notice of intent, dated June 6, states that the Rules were “negligently, wrongfully, tortiously, unlawfully and forcefully ejected from their property” on Road L north of Cortez by the State Patrol and sheriff’s office, which were acting “under the guise of an unlawful search warrant for an alleged stolen cement truck.”
The notice accuses the law officers of keeping the Rules out of their home overnight at a time when Larrie had health problems.
A notice of intent to sue is not the same as an actual complaint filed in court, but when someone is planning to sue a government entity, a notice of intent must be sent first.
The Rules’ notice says they will seek approximately $100,000 for “emotional distress, loss of privacy, tortious interference with business and/or other opportunities, libel, slander and defamation of character and. . . violations of their civil rights.” In addition, they are seeking compensation for the cost of a hotel room, meals and other specific economic costs related to their ejection from their home.
According to reports at the time, several law-enforcement agencies working with the State Patrol’s “Beat Auto Theft Through Law Enforcement” task force conducted a three-day search of the Rules’ property beginning Dec. 12, and removed two cement-mixer trucks. A State Patrol spokesman said there would be more information released in a few days, then pushed that back to after Jan. 1. Later the spokesman reportedly said there would be information released after May 1, but that date came and went with no news forthcoming.
No charges have been reported filed in the case.
Meanwhile, the search warrant; the warrant’s return, which documents what was found; and all other reports about the investigation have been sealed, evidently at the request of former District Attorney Russell Wasley.
Current DA Will Furse did not respond to a phone call from the Free Press seeking information about the search warrant and the sealing of documents.
The Rules and their attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
The notice of intent names State Patrol Trooper Steve Nowlin and Sheriff Dennis Spruell as public employees specifically involved in the case. It says other individuals “are unknown at this time.”
“Under the guise of an unlawful search warrant for an alleged stolen cement truck,” the notice states, the CSP and MCSO “wrongfully ejected Claimants from their property for a full night, which was excessive under the circumstances and in violation of Claimants’ civil and other rights.”
Larrie Rule “had serious health issues at the time, of which the Colorado State Patrol was notified and, despite this, the State Patrol and/or Trooper Nowlin refused to allow claimants to return to their home,” the notice states.
It continues, “Claimants have emotionally and physically suffered due to the unreasonable, unlawful and excessive search and due to an invasion of their home and privacy for an excessive length of time (under the totality of the circumstances), were forced out of their home due to an unlawful search warrant for an allegedly stolen truck located outside the home in a carport, and due to other actions or inactions, by the public entities and/or their employees.”
It says the Rules’ reputations have been damaged.
Larrie Rule was commissioner for eight years and left in January 2013 because he was term-limited. Pat DeGagne Rule was longtime chair of the county Republican Party and was a candidate for county commission herself in 2012, though she did not win.