Lawyer suing county for arrest

A Vienna attorney is suing two Warren County officials for what he calls false arrest and malicious prosecution and violation of his constitutional protections against unreasonable arrest.

The complaint filed by Michael Ryu in U.S. District Court in Alexandria depicts his arrest on May 20 as a traumatic event caused by “grossly negligent” legal work performed by Assistant County Attorney Daniel Whitten. The suit also lists Warren County Treasurer Wanda Bryant and the county government as defendants.

A motion by the defendants to dismiss the suit is scheduled for a hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria in the Eastern District of Virginia on April 17.

Ryu’s complaint states that he “was handcuffed in his office parking lot in full view of passers-by and taken by police car to the Falls Church police station where he was processed and released.”

Ryu was charged with failing to appear in court to respond to written questions from Whitten about a case involving collection of back taxes from a company represented by Ryu.

The complaint, submitted by attorney Victor M. Glasberg of Alexandria, states that the arrest left Ryu humiliated and embarrassed before neighbors and by-standers who saw Town of Vienna police take him away.

Glasberg wrote that his client subsequently “had to explain his arrest to an irate client who had appeared for a scheduled consultation shortly after Mr. Ryu had been arrested. Mr. Ryu’s wife, who is his law partner, was so shocked and distressed at seeing her husband arrested that she threw up in the restroom immediately thereafter, as Mr. Ryu learned on returning to his further distress.”

On June 4, Warren County General District Court Judge W. Dale Houff dismissed the case against Ryu at the request of Whitten.

Whitten and Bryant had little to say about the lawsuit Thursday.

“If you read the motion to dismiss, you’ll be able to see some of the inaccuracies in the complaint,” Whitten said, adding, “the federal court judge will rule on the motion to dismiss the case and hopefully, they will dismiss the case.”

Bryant refused to comment.

Ryu’s complaint states his arrest came while he was representing a bankrupt corporation, CS Property, Inc., “that had an interest in a certain property located at 451 S. Royal Ave. in Front Royal.”

The county was seeking to collect $12,876 in what Whitten described as back taxes owed by CS. The county had obtained a default judgment against CS, which had filed for bankruptcy in May 2013.

Ryu argues that Whitten had no right or authority to seek his arrest when company officials did not respond to written questions from the county about the case.

A registered agent such as Ryu is not an officer, director or employee of a company and cannot be held legally responsible for his client’s actions in a tax collection case, the complaint states.

“Wrongfully and baselessly to cast Mr. Ryu as a party defendant in an action to collect taxes that were not his to pay was absurd and outrageous,” Glasberg wrote in one court filing.

Whitten’s attorney, Julia B. Judkins, of Fairfax, insisted that her client was entitled to immunity from most lawsuits linked to work he performs as assistant county attorney.

“Clearly Whitten was acting within the scope of his employment and within the authority given to him through his employment position as assistant county attorney,” Judkins wrote in a court filing.

Judkins also argued that Ryu’s arrest did not constitute false imprisonment.

“Because Ryu was arrested based on a factually valid and regular on its face (arrest warrant) issued by the Warren County Court, and after arrest, he was immediately taken before a natural magistrate and released on personal recognizance, he cannot state a claim for false imprisonment against Whitten in this case,” Judkins wrote.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com