- Associated Press - Monday, July 18, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A judge on Monday tossed out several key parts of a civil rights lawsuit leveled against West Valley City by a former police officer who claimed his reputation was ruined following his firing after he fatally shot a woman during a drug investigation.

U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins ruled after a hearing in Salt Lake City in which an attorney for the city argued that ex-officer Shaun Cowley didn’t have grounds to sue because he was reinstated two years after his firing.

The ruling marked a victory for West Valley City in the long-running feud with Cowley, who was fired in 2013 after he was charged with manslaughter in the high-profile death of 21-year-old Danielle Willard.

The charge was dropped against Cowley, and he was reinstated in 2015 after he appealed his termination. The city paid him $120,000 in back pay and benefits to settle his wrongful termination claim last year.

Cowley sued the city in February, alleging it made him a scapegoat for larger problems with the department’s narcotics squad, which was disbanded after an investigation found officers kept souvenirs from drug busts and mishandled evidence.

“We are very pleased,” lawyer Stanley Preston, representing West Valley City, said about the ruling Monday. “This is a very important step for the city to make to knock these claims out at the beginning.”

Cowley’s attorney, Daniel Baczynski, said during the hearing that getting his job back didn’t undo the damage to his client’s reputation. He told Judge Jenkins that the city created hostile working conditions when Cowley returned to work. He said an email was circulated by police officials saying that even though Cowley was back at work, the matter wasn’t closed.

When the judge pressed for details and a copy of the email, Baczynski acknowledged he didn’t have a copy and that Cowley only heard about it from others. When Baczynski mentioned the email again later in the hearing, Jenkins said, “The email that may or may not exist.”

Cowley resigned three days after he was given his job back, noted Preston, questioning how he could have even known the environment was hostile in such a short time.

Preston said he plans to ask the judge to dismiss the rest of the lawsuit against West Valley City workers.

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