Nashville’s Metro Council approved a $130,000 civil rights settlement on Tuesday, ending a lawsuit that began with a 2011 arrest.
Andrea Miller’s settlement with former Metro Nashville police officer Woodston Maddox brings one of the city’s largest civil rights settlements in recent history. The agreement awards Miller $50,000 in damages and reimburses ‘reasonable’ attorneys’ fees up to $80,000.
According to The Tennessean, the settlement marks the second use of the city’s ‘judgments and losses’ fund in the 2019 fiscal year. Nashville has already paid out close to $250,000, with $2.6 million left in reserve.
Miller says the story started on an early August morning. It was 2011, and Miller was driving home after working a nightshift at a Wilson Sporting Goods warehouse.
Heading down a lonely road, she noticed a police car driving the opposite direction.
“And the next thing I see, he puts on his lights and makes a U-turn,” Miller said.
The woman was close to home. She drove a few hundred feet, pulled into her driveway, and saw Maddox step out of his patrol car. He ordered her from her vehicle and said she was going to be placed under arrest.
“So I ask, “Why are you arresting me?’ And he says, ‘I am arresting you for running that stop sign,’” Miller said.
Maddox later said that he’d seen Miller speeding and smelled marijuana in her car. Nashville Public Radio reports that no drugs were ever found on the woman or in her vehicle.
At no point, claims Miller, did Maddox ever ask to see her license or registration. Instead, she was handcuffed and taken into the officer’s patrol car within two minutes of the encounter’s initiation.
Miller wound up facing charges of reckless driving and resisting arrest. But she never stopped fighting, doing something Nashville Public Radio says is unusual: Miller kept by her innocence claim, refusing the chance to plea bargain.
Her attorneys kept digging, eventually uncovering evidence that Maddox had falsified his report. The stop sign he said Miller ran was out of view from his patrol car; another claim Maddox made was that Miller was so noncompliant that she had to be restrained by three officers.
“But the records show,” said attorney Kyle Mothershead, “that one of the officers never came at all. And the that the third officer came after she was in custody.”
It took seven years of litigation and investigating before Nashville agreed to settle. The city’s law director, Jon Cooper, said the decision was made in part because it appeared Miller might prevail in court.
“The plaintiff would make a very good witness, would be a very sympathetic witness, and so we think that certainly from a business standpoint this is the best approach for the city,” Cooper said.
Miller never filed a formal complaint against Maddox, and Maddox never faced any legal consequences—he retired from Metro Police in 2015, after serving the department for five years.