A federal jury has vindicated former Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office patrol deputy Eric Kozowski, awarding him $1 million following a week-long trial.
Kozowski filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the sheriff’s office in February 2018 after he was fired by Sheriff Shane Nelson, who Kozowski ran against for sheriff in 2016.
Kozowski tells Central Oregon Daily News the verdict is bittersweet.
“I feel thankful that the jury vindicated me. That they saw that the treatment I received from Sheriff Shane Nelson, was in fact, retaliatory for me exercising my first amendment right to run for political office,” Kozowski said. “It’s sad too that it even had to occur, it should’ve never happened in the first place.”
The sheriff’s office and Deschutes County released a statement Monday.
“While we are disappointed in the verdict, we respect the jury process. We will be reviewing the outcome in the near future for a potential appeal,” the statement said. “The County’s Risk Management fund will pay for economic damages and legal fees up to $1 million. The County’s excess insurance company will pay for economic damages and legal fees in excess of $1 million.”
Kozowski says the citizens of Deschutes County deserve better law enforcement leadership.
“The jury’s decision on Sheriff Nelson’s retaliation against me just upholds that that still needs to occur,” Kozowski said. “So hopefully the outcome of my lawsuit will lead to that.”