SALT LAKE CITY — One of two Idaho State University football players arrested on a mistaken suspicion of bank robbery has received a partial out-of-court settlement.
Nehemiah McFarlin and Atoa Fox were driving through Box Elder County, headed home to California on Christmas break 2016, when Utah police arrested and jailed them.
The men, both 18, spent that night and most of the next day in the Box Elder County Jail in Brigham City until they were freed.
“Other than being ‘black,’ neither McFarlin nor Fox matched the description of the robbery participant,” attorneys for the two said in the U.S. District Court suit filed Dec. 5, 2018, alleging false arrest, illegal search and seizure and excessive force.
Three weeks later, a 20-year-old Ogden man, also an African American, was arrested by the FBI for a spree of bank robberies in Idaho and others states — including the Dec. 14, 2016, holdup of the U.S. Bank in Malad that police thought the two had robbed.
In response to the suit, lawyers representing Box Elder County in northern Utah and nearby Oneida County, Idaho, contended it was an unfortunate case of mistaken identity and the officers involved acted in good faith.
Attorneys for Fox and Oneida County on April 24 filed a motion dismissing Fox’s complaints against the Idaho defendants.
Idaho Falls attorney Sam Angell, representing the Idaho defendants, said Tuesday that Oneida offered Fox a settlement of “nuisance value only” and the player accepted.
The rest of the case, including Fox’s complaints against Box Elder County, remains active.
“We believe the claims are baseless and we are in the process of filing a motion to dismiss” all claims against Oneida, Angell said.
Bron Rammell, a Pocatello attorney representing Fox and McFarlin, did not immediately return a phone message.
Before their arrest, the two men were in McFarlin’s 2017 Chevy Camaro and had pulled off Interstate 15 near Portage to await AAA help. The car had slid off the icy road and the front end was damaged.
The suit alleged that another driver called Box Elder sheriff’s dispatch to report a white car was off the road and two black males were in the car.
Two Utah Highway Patrol troopers arrived, and with guns drawn, ordered the two out of the car, handcuffed them and said they were under arrest for robbing the Malad bank earlier that day, the suit said.
The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office in Idaho had broadcast that the suspect was described as a black male, driving a four-door white Toyota passenger car with no window tinting, three missing hubcaps, no license plate and front-end damage.
Fox and McFarlin offered alibi information demonstrating they could not have robbed the bank, the suit said.
The suit alleged the men were threatened and treated with excessive force during the handcuffing and their incarceration.
According to the ISU athletic department’s website, Fox and McFarlin both played during the 2016 season leading up to their trip home after the fall semester.