An Iowa man released body camera footage of his arrest at the hands of two Newton, Iowa, police officers last year. He is now being sued for defamation.
In August 2022, 19-year-old Tayvin Galanakis was driving in Newton shortly after midnight when police officers Nathan Winters and Christopher Wing stopped him.
“How much have you drunk tonight?” Winters asks Galanakis on body camera images of the incident.
“None,” Galanakis replies. Winters asks incredulously, “What do you mean none?” Galanakis said, “Great, then let’s do a test.”
The footage then shows Galanakis undergoing a series of field sobriety tests. After Winters claimed that Galanakis failed them, he administered a breathalyzer test, which showed that Galanakis had a blood alcohol level of 0.00. Almost immediately after proving his sobriety, body camera footage shows Winters asking Galanakis how much marijuana he had consumed.
“Despite previously stating that he could smell alcohol on Tayvin, Officer Winters now stated that he believed Tayvin was intoxicated due to his marijuana use,” reads a legal complaint later filed by Galanakis. “Tayvin continually told officers that he did not use marijuana and that his placement on the William Penn (University) football team prevented him from using marijuana due to his weekly drug testing.”
“I have not taken marijuana tonight,” body camera footage shows Galanakis telling officers. “Why do you think it’s tonight? I got a zero, so now you’re trying to say I smoked weed. That’s what’s going on. You can’t do that, man. You really can’t do that.”
“Absolutely I can,” one of the officers responded.
According to Galanakis’ lawsuit, officers arrested Galanakis and took him to the Newton police station, where he agreed to submit to drug tests, which came back negative. Finally, he was released.
Less than a week after his arrest, Galanakis posted body camera footage of his arrest to YouTube, where it eventually garnered more than 2 million views. According to the Newton Daily NewsSpectators flooded the Newton Police Department with hundreds of calls expressing outrage over the arrest.
Galanakis filed suit against Winters and Wing in February 2023, alleging that the officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights, wrongfully arrested him, and caused “humiliation, degradation, public ridicule, loss of personal reputation, and emotional distress.”
Shortly after, Winters and Wing filed a countersuit against Galanakis, arguing that he had defamed them by posting the images and making disparaging comments about the officers on social media. In several posts, Galanakis made statements such as “the NPD basically kidnapped me and then raped me all night,” “they didn’t show the clip of Nathan sexually harassing me,” and falsely claimed that Winters had been convicted of domestic abuse.
In May, a federal judge dismissed most of Winters and Wing’s defamation claims. “Galanakis made extensive video of her encounter with Winters available on YouTube and TikTok,” Judge Stephen H. Lochner wrote. “Therefore, viewers had the opportunity to see for themselves what Winters said and did. With this context in mind, it would be even more difficult for a listener to interpret Galanakis’ statements as anything other than his opinion or ‘hyperbole.’ rhetoric’ about what happened during the encounter.”
However, Lochner also ruled that several of Galanakis’ statements (i.e., his claims that Winters was convicted of domestic abuse or had abused an ex-girlfriend) were possibly defamatory and therefore the defamation suit could move forward. partly.
This is not the first time Newton police have lashed out at a disgruntled citizen. Last year, Noah Petersen, then 22, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after he claimed during a City Council meeting about Galanakis’ arrest that the police department was employing a “domestic abuser.” , referring to Winters.
Petersen was found not guilty and the city ordinance allowing his arrest was revoked for violating the First Amendment.
“What is the First Amendment for if not criticizing the government?” Petersen said local television station KCCI last October. “I think the government can withstand three minutes of criticism.”
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