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Landlord accused of running over tenant with Hummer files lawsuit against prosecutors

FARGO - A 73-year-old West Fargo landlord, accused of intentionally running over an ex-tenant with his Hummer, alleges the Cass County officials pursuing criminal charges against him have violated his civil rights.

In a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday, Alois Vetter claims "malicious" and "negligent" prosecution by Cass County authorities.

He's seeking more than $50,000 in damages plus the cost of attorney fees.

Vetter has continually denied wrongdoing in the Feb. 18 incident, and he previously pleaded not guilty to two felony charges of reckless endangerment and aggravated assault.

The case is set for a jury trial starting Tuesday in Cass County District Court.

Police said Vetter pushed his ex-tenant, Brian Hemphill, roughly 60 feet down the road before intentionally running him over, breaking several ribs and collapsing a lung.

A Cass County judge ruled in May that prosecutors had enough probable cause to go forward with the charges.

However, Vetter disagrees and filed a federal lawsuit against Cass County State's Attorney Birch Burdick, Assistant State's Attorney Reid Brady and West Fargo Detective Derek Cruff.

Vetter alleges that the criminal charges come from "inconsistent, fabricated and false statements" that he claims reinforce his belief that he did nothing wrong.

Vetter has said in Cass County court hearings that he was scared by a group of tenants who had congregated outside of his West Fargo duplex and that he was trying to flee a threatening situation.

In the federal lawsuit, Vetter says Burdick, Brady and Cruff "conspired" to violate his rights of due process and to knowingly charge him with crimes he did not commit.

Burdick told The Forum Thursday afternoon that he had not yet been served with Vetter's lawsuit but that he was aware of it.

"We'll review it, and we'll respond as seems legally appropriate," Burdick said.

Vetter seeks compensation for monetary damages and other ailments, including "loss of personal freedom," "pain and suffering, both physical and emotional," and "loss of reputation" in West Fargo, where he has been a longtime resident.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541