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Acquitted man sues SLO County over 2012 assault case

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A man acquitted of molestation, assault, and other criminal charges in a 2012 case is suing SLO County, the Sheriff’s Office, and several of its investigators. 

The suit, filed July 29 in SLO County Superior Court, claims that the man, Michael Aaron McGrew, suffered physically, financially, and emotionally after he was wrongly arrested and spent nearly two years in SLO County Jail awaiting trial, where he was physically attacked multiple times. 

“[McGrew] was subjected to the humiliation and trauma of being falsely arrested and falsely prosecuted for several serious felony sex crimes with potential lifetime registration as a sex offender and potential life prison sentences,” the lawsuit stated. 

McGrew was arrested in May 2012 and charged with eight felony charges after sheriff’s investigators said he allegedly sexually assault two girls, ages 16 and 18. McGrew’s bail was set at $1 million due to the severity of the charges, according to previous New Times reports

The lawsuit alleged sheriff’s investigators botched the investigation of the case, ignoring evidence that could have helped McGrew, such as the alleged victims changing their stories and later leaving a local hospital before being seen by a Suspected Abuse Response Team. The lawsuit names SLO County Sheriff Ian Parkinson, as well as four other department employees involved in the case.

Between his arrest and his acquittal by a SLO county jury, McGrew was incarcerated in SLO County Jail for nearly two years, where the lawsuit claims he was assaulted five times by other inmates because of the pending charges against him, resulting in the loss of two teeth. The allegations followed McGrew even after he was acquitted. The lawsuit stated that he was confronted in March 2014 by a car full of men who recognized him, became aggressive, and asked him if he was a “pervert.” 

McGrew’s lawsuit was filed previously in federal court, but was dismissed at McGrew’s request, according to court records. County legal officials vowed to fight the lawsuit’s previous incarnation. The stance remains the same for the latest lawsuit, said Nina Negranti, chief deputy county counsel. 

“Nothing has changed,” she said. “The facts are same, and the county will defend because it’s a meritless claim.”

According to custody records, McGrew is once again in county jail, this time on multiple charges including petty theft, inflicting injury on a spouse or cohabitant, and parole violations. McGrew’s attorney, David Fisher, told New Times he couldn’t comment on the lawsuit. When asked if McGrew was concerned about being back in the same jail where he was allegedly assaulted multiple times, Fisher wasn’t able to say, noting that his son and fellow criminal defense attorney, Patrick, had been working with McGrew.

“I really haven’t interacted with him,” Fisher said.

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