Box Elder County has agreed to pay more than $10,000 to settle a civil suit filed by two black Idaho State University football players who said they were falsely arrested on Interstate 15 during a bank robbery investigation.
Nehemiah McFarlin, a current football player, and Atoatasi Fox, a now-former football player, each will receive $5,100 in settlement of the case, which stemmed from their arrest Dec. 14, 2016, while they were headed home from Pocatello, Idaho, to California for holiday break.
The two were jailed in Brigham City at the Box Elder County Jail. Officers from neighboring Oneida County, Idaho, and the Utah Highway Patrol also participated in the investigation of the robbery earlier that day in Malad, Idaho.
Two months ago, the pair received a $21,000 settlement from the state of Utah on behalf of the UHP, and Fox accepted an undisclosed settlement from Oneida County in May 2019.
Bron Rammell, an Idaho Falls attorney representing the men, said Tuesday a settlement between McFarlin and Oneida County is close to being finalized.
“The matter of attorneys’ fees for the plaintiffs is pending, so the case is basically settled,” Rammell said. “The Box Elder defendants will be responsible for attorneys’ fees and costs.”
Efforts to contact attorneys representing the county were not immediately successful. Chief Deputy Sheriff Dale Ward, spokesman for the Box Elder County Sheriff’s Office, said Thursday the office had not yet been notified of the settlement.
The current and former Idaho State students said they presented alibis demonstrating they had not robbed the bank, but authorities went through with the arrests because Fox and McFarlin matched basic parts of the descriptions by a bank teller — that the robber was black and left in a white car.
But McFarlin’s Camaro did not match the description of the car used in the Malad robbery, other than the color, the suit said.
“The only thing that matched was that plaintiffs were the same race as the robbery suspect,” it said.
Oneida authorities later advised Box Elder there was no probable cause for the arrests, and the two were released from jail the next day.
Fox and McFarlin, 18 at the time, later filed suit accusing the two counties and the UHP of false arrest, illegal search and seizure, and excessive force.
Attorneys representing Box Elder County responded during the litigation that deputies’ actions were made in good faith.
Dakota Shareef Walker, 20, was arrested at his Ogden home Jan. 10, 2017, by the FBI and Ogden police for the Malad US Bank robbery for which McFarlin and Fox had been suspected. He was convicted and is serving a 7½-year federal prison term.