Private Eye Claims False Arrest

Sunday, February 11th 2007, 6:10 pm
By: News On 6

BETHANY, Okla. (AP) _ A private investigator has sued the city of Bethany after a police officer arrested him and confiscated his video camera.

Madison Lee Hibbard claims he videotaped the police officer, Robert Lassiter, ``making out'' with the wife of a sex crimes suspect, and that Lassiter falsely arrested him and confiscated his camera.

Hibbard, 53, makes the allegations in a civil lawsuit filed in Oklahoma County District Court that seeks $125,000 in damages. Lassiter, 35, also is named as a defendant in the suit.

Hibbard was following the woman, April M. Barton, at the request of her husband, Thomas Barton, who suspected his wife was involved in an extramarital affair, according to the lawsuit.

``It's not right for an officer to abuse his authority and arrest someone when (the officer) has done something wrong. ... Something ought to be done,'' said Hibbard, a former U.S. Army military police officer.

April Barton filed for divorce from Thomas Barton on July 17, nine days before he was charged with sex crimes based on a police report written by Lassiter. Lassiter was the investigating officer who took the initial report in which a woman _ not April Barton _ accused Thomas Barton of lewd conduct involving teenage girls, court records show.

Thomas Barton was charged July 26 in Oklahoma County on felony counts of making a lewd or indecent proposal to a child under age 16 and indecent exposure. He is awaiting trial in the case.

Attorney Irven Box, who is representing Thomas Barton in the criminal case, said Hibbard's civil lawsuit could affect Thomas Barton's case. ``Some facts in the civil lawsuit and some factual matters such as the relationship between my client's wife and the police officer could affect the case or the credibility of witnesses,'' Box said.

Lassiter is represented in the civil lawsuit by attorney Amber Gooch, who declined to comment on the lawsuit. April Barton, contacted by The Oklahoman, said, ``If there is litigation it will be tried in court and not in the newspaper, and I cannot and will not comment on any pending litigation.''

Hibbard, who has worked as a private investigator about two years, said after he videotaped Lassiter and April Barton on the night of Aug. 3, Lassiter approached Hibbard and arrested him on a complaint of obstructing an officer, the lawsuit states.

Hibbard was taken to the Bethany city jail and released after 90 minutes. His video camera was confiscated for five days, he said. Hibbard told The Oklahoman that when he recovered his video camera, the segment showing Lassiter and April Barton together was missing.