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Feb 26, 2010 6:00 PM by Angela Douglas

$300,000 settles suit between city and Billings police officer

BILLINGS - UPDATE: A Billings police officer has settled for $300,000 from the City of Billings and its police department, after filing a free-speech lawsuit.

Officer Terry Bechtold filed the suit in May 2008 against the city of Billings and the police department, alleging he was subjected to unfair discipline, "internal affairs" investigations, and hostile work conditions following a testimony in the civil trial of former Billings police officer, Steve Feuerstein.

Bechtold originally filed charges against Billings Police Chief Rich St. John, but

In court documents, Bechtold says his testimony was not part of his job description, he testified out of public concern.

The parties settled Wednesday with U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby in federal court.

Bob James, the city and police department's attorney, says his defendants are pleased that the lawsuit is resolved.

James says the city and BPD settled for several reasons. Had the case gone to trial on March 29th, the scheduled date, it would have been a very expensive case to try.

The trial would have been disruptive to the police department with the number of officers testifying and with BPD Chief Rich St. John occupied all week by the trial.

He says the city and BPD decided their resources would've been better spent on protecting the city.

Bechtold originally pressed charges against Chief St. John, but James said the court dismissed the chief prior to Wednesday's mediation.

A press release from Judge Ostby said Bechtold believed that the issues raised in the lawsuit have been addressed by the police department.

Originally the suit was filed in state District Court, but switched over to federal court seven months later.

The $300,000 settlement included attorney fees.


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