Attorney arrested in tax case loses lawsuit

A federal judge Monday tossed out a lawsuit by a Vienna attorney against Assistant Warren County Attorney Dan Whitten in a ruling that found “no evidence” that Whitten intentionally broke any laws linked to the arrest of the plaintiff, Michael R. Ryu.

U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton ruled that Ryu’s claims of malicious prosecution, false arrest, gross negligence and violation of constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure did not apply to Whitten’s actions. A government employee such as Whitten is entitled to qualified immunity from lawsuits if he acted in a way considered reasonable for someone in his job, Hilton said.

“The record offers no evidence to support a knowing, intentional violation by defendant of plaintiff’s clearly established constitutional rights,” Hilton wrote, adding that “plaintiff’s Fourth amendment claims, including any claims of unreasonable seizure, false arrest or malicious prosecution, should be dismissed on grounds of Whitten’s entitlement to qualified immunity.”

Ryu accused Whitten of “grossly negligent” work on a case that led to Ryu’s arrest on a charge of failing to appear in court to answer questions from Whitten in a tax delinquency case. The case involved a company Ryu was representing.

Ryu was arrested at his office in May 2014. In court documents, Ryu described the ensuing scene as an embarrassment and humiliation that led his wife, who is also his law partner, to throw up in the office restroom.

A few weeks later, Warren County General District Judge W. Dale Houff dismissed the case against Ryu at Whitten’s request.

Whitten said in an interview Monday that Ryu could have avoided being arrested if he had heeded warnings on documents mailed to him and contacted Warren County officials to clear up misunderstandings about the case.

“I think it was a good decision,” Whitten said of Hilton’s ruling. “The judge used a lot of the language and case law that we presented in our brief.”

Ryu’s attorney, Victor Glasburg of Alexandria, said he has already given notice that he will appeal the decision to the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“I don’t think he focused on what we view as the central part of the case,” Glasburg said Hilton. “If we are wrong, we will lose the appeal, and if we are right, then we will win.”

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