When Barron Bowling wouldn't let a car pass him on the right seven years ago, it sparked road rage that left him beaten and lying on blistering pavement.
Bowling's attacker turned out to be federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent Timothy McCue, who was in an unmarked car with two colleagues.
Bowling won $833,250 in federal court Friday for the beating, which left him with severe brain damage and post-traumatic stress.
U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled that Bowling, of Kansas City, Kan., suffered assault, battery and excessive force from "road rage fueled by egos and unwarranted self-righteousness."
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In a side comment, Robinson wrote that Kansas City, Kan., police management forced Detective Max Seifert into early retirement after he tried to report honestly what happened to Bowling.
The treatment of Seifert was "shameful" after he crossed "the thin blue line," the judge wrote. Seifert's findings went against those of the DEA officers, but Wyandotte County prosecutors charged Bowling anyway with causing a traffic accident.
The Wyandotte County Unified Government also was a defendant in the case but settled last year for $425,000. The government admitted no wrongdoing on claims of malicious prosecution, abuse of process and conspiracy.
A Wyandotte County jury earlier found Bowling not guilty of the felony of intentionally causing the wreck but convicted him of leaving the scene of the accident, for what he contended was driving a short distance so he wouldn't block traffic.
Attorneys on both sides Monday declined to comment on the case.
Robinson heard the lawsuit without a jury. She listened to 19 days of testimony.
Among findings in the judge's 48-page verdict:
The case stemmed from a minor sideswipe crash in Kansas City, Kan., on July 10, 2003.
Bowling, now 36, was driving north on Tenth Street when he noticed a car trying to pass him illegally on the right side. He sped up, but the other car still tried to pass him. The cars bumped, and shortly after both pulled over.
As Bowling got out of his car, DEA agent McCue rushed toward him with a gun pointed at him. Bowling was shirtless when McCue and another agent forced him stomach down onto the hot pavement. It was 98 degrees outside.
Bowling tried to push himself up with one hand, and McCue hit him several times with his fist and/or with the butt of a gun.
"The court also finds that McCue kicked the plaintiff several times while (Bowling) was fully handcuffed and laying on the ground," the ruling states.
McCue also called Bowling names like "inbred hillbilly," the ruling states. And when he learned from dispatch that Bowling had no prior convictions, McCue called him "system-dodging white trash."
The agents with whom McCue was working undercover did not stop him during the attack.
According to the ruling, McCue claimed that Bowling rammed McCue's car, almost causing McCue's vehicle to hit a utility pole. In McCue's version, he hit Bowling's shoulders and neck with an open hand as a way to control him. He admitted that he struck Bowling in the back of his head and on his face, causing a black eye.
McCue also admitted calling Bowling "white trash" and other names, according to the ruling.
The judge ruled that she did not believe the DEA agent's version of the accident. Bowling "did not intentionally ram McCue's vehicle," she wrote. "Indeed, a jury reached the same conclusion" when it found Bowling not guilty of causing the wreck. She agreed with the jury "by a very strong preponderance of the evidence."
The government used McCue's assertion that Bowling caused the accident and then evaded arrest as justification for how McCue and another agent tried to control him as they arrested him, Robinson ruled.
Seifert, the detective whom the judge praised for honest work that got him "castigated by his superiors, by the prosecutor, by the DEA," paid a high price, the ruling states.
Seifert was forced into retirement before his retirement benefits were fully vested, the judge said. He was even denied a routine commission that would allow him to work as a security guard.
Seifert could not be reached for comment Monday.