- Associated Press - Thursday, October 12, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon Department of Justice agreed to pay $205,000 to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the lawyer in charge of its civil rights division.

Erious Johnson Jr. sued Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and other agency employees last year after learning he had put under digital surveillance. The Oregonian/OregonLive reported Wednesday that the settlement was signed this month. Rosenblum and other defendants did not admit fault, and Johnson agreed to leave his job by Friday.

“Erious has been a part of the DOJ team for over three years, and we are sad to see him leave,” Rosenblum said in a statement. “It is both a personal loss and a loss for all of DOJ.”

The racial-profiling scandal began two years ago, when DOJ investigator James Williams tested new software to search for potential anti-government threats, and one Twitter hashtag he checked was #BlackLivesMatter.

Johnson’s lawsuit said his Twitter feed was examined after Williams noticed a logo connected with the hip-hop group Public Enemy. The lawsuit said the logo depicts a black man in silhouette in the crosshairs of a gun, but the investigator mistook the man for a police officer and wrote to his supervisor that Johnson could be a threat.

Williams downloaded Johnson’s Twitter history, generated a report, and sent it up the Justice Department chain of command. Rosenblum fired Williams after his actions became public, but an arbitrator reinstated him with back pay.

Attorney Beth Creighton, who represented Johnson, criticized Rosenblum’s agency for its handling of civil rights issues and the lawsuit: “Erious Johnson filed this lawsuit solely to fight that power and its abuse in order to hold DOJ accountable for this breach of trust.”

The state also agreed to pay $70,000 to settle a suit brought by Nkenge Harmon Johnson, who is married to Erious Johnson. She alleged that she was improperly fired in 2014 as a spokeswoman for then-Gov. John Kitzhaber.

After leaving Kitzhaber’s office, Harmon Johnson became president and chief executive of the Urban League of Portland.

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