The city of Cloquet and Carlton County have asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed against them by a St. Paul man with claims of false imprisonment after a guilty plea in 2017.
Clarence Manuel Lozoya Jr. was arrested in December 2016 for allegedly assaulting a man in the face with a gun. Former Cloquet police officer Scott Beckman was the arresting officer. Lozoya pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and was sentenced to 36 months in prison in May 2017.
Lozoya’s initial complaint, which was filed in April 2021, includes multiple claims ranging from false arrest and deprivation of liberty to unreasonable search and seizure. In addition to the city of Cloquet and Carlton County, the suit also names Beckman and former Cloquet acting police chief Carey Ferrell as defendants.
In February 2016, an outside investigator concluded that Beckman lied to a superior officer and falsified an application for a search warrant. After leaving the department under a separation agreement in December 2018, the Carlton County Attorney’s office said 18 cases involving Beckman were dismissed, four cases were submitted for review and not charged, and 25 additional cases were reviewed.
Lozoya was released from prison in February 2019 because of Beckman's involvement in the case. Lozoya was arrested again in 2020 on charges of being a felon in possession of an electronic incapacitation device, refusal to submit to a chemical test, fourth-degree driving while impaired and several other misdemeanors. Most recently Lozoya was arrested on Nov. 3 for a probation violation.
Lozoya’s complaint hinges on the fact the defense was not made aware of Beckman’s Brady violations before they entered a guilty plea, according to federal court documents. Brady v. Maryland is a 1963 Supreme Court case that requires the disclosure of exculpatory material to defendants in criminal prosecutions, including misconduct findings involving law enforcement.
Carlton County and Cloquet followed the complaint with motions to dismiss in June and September, respectively.
U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Minnesota Eric Tostrud heard a motion to dismiss the complaint from the defendants on Oct. 18, but no decision had been made as of Friday, Nov. 12.
The complaint seeks a money judgement for mental pain, compensatory damages and attorney’s fees; it also seeks punitive damages against the defendants. The amount of money Lozoya is seeking was not included in court documents. Lozoya also seeks an injunction against the city and county to establish training and procedures to fulfill their Brady obligation.
The county’s initial motion to dismiss the complaint contended that officials were not constitutionally required to inform the defense about Beckman's Brady violations.
“There is no constitutional obligation to disclose impeachment evidence prior to entering into a plea agreement with a criminal defendant, Plaintiff’s claims fail as a matter of law,” the county stated in its motion.
The city of Cloquet responded, as well, and included a letter from former Carlton County Attorney Thomas Pertler dated June 28, 2016.
“There are a variety of potential negative consequences that could result from disclosure of the investigative material,” Pertler said in his letter.
Lozoya’s camp responded, saying officials should have disclosed the Brady violations to the criminal defense bar in Carlton County six months before Lozoya was arrested.
The information was disclosed to the criminal defense bar after Perlter lost his reelection bid to Lauri Ketola in November 2018.
When asked about the case, the city of Cloquet did not have a comment, as the case is ongoing, according to city administrator Tim Peterson.
Carlton County Coordinator Dennis Genereau would only say the county’s attorneys are experienced in handling these types of cases.
“We are confident in our legal counsel,” he said.
As of Friday, no further proceedings have been scheduled in the case.