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Former Cornelius officer sues his former attorneys

Miguel Monico alleges breach of contract in case that might have settled

Former Cornelius police officer Miguel Monico, whom a federal civil jury two years ago found to have falsified evidence in a drug case, has now filed a $2 million lawsuit against the law firm that represented him.

According to a complaint filed by his new attorney, Sean Riddell, Monico alleges that his previous attorney, Miller & Wagner LP law firm of Portland, did not adequately represent him and failed to settle the case when it would have served his interests. The suit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, alleges legal malpractice, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty against Miller & Wagner, and also names City County Insurance Services as a defendant.

The insurance services firm retained attorney Robert Wagner of Miller & Wagner to represent Monico against charges by Cornelius resident Diego Mata-Gonzales that Monico fabricated drug evidence against him in a Feb. 4, 2010, incident.

In that incident, Monico, then a Cornelius Police officer, searched Mata-Gonzales’ house and found a bag of white powder that Monico — using a field test kit — said he believed to be cocaine. Mata-Gonzales was soon arrested. A few weeks later, an Oregon State Police forensics laboratory report revealed that the white substance was not cocaine.

Monico’s complaint alleges that in his defense against Mata-Gonzales’ charges, Miller & Wagner did not advise City County Insurance Services that they “had a duty to settle the lawsuit before a judge or jury formally erroneously found Monico was dishonest or fabricated evidence …”

The complaint contends the defendants should have known a settlement could have protected Monico’s law enforcement career, whereas the ensuing jury verdict essentially made it impossible for Monico to ever testify again in a court, as most law enforcement officers must do.

The complaint alleges a Miller & Wagner associate reported to Wagner that he "'did not think to warn' Monico of the implications of an adverse ruling on Monico's career."

While the Mata-Gonzales suit was still pending, the Cornelius Police Department placed Monico on administrative leave. On July 1, 2014, the Cornelius Police Department dissolved and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office took its place. Monico then became a a county employee but remained on administrative leave.

Monico’s complaint alleges that on/about Aug. 25, 2014, Mata-Gonzales’s counsel communicated he was interested in further settlement negotiations, and that Miller & Wagner informed City County Insurance Services that the firm’s lawyers were no longer confident a jury would find in favor of Monico and the insurance company.

The case went to trial in early September 2014, and on Sept. 8, the jury returned what Monico’s complaint calls an “inconsistent verdict.” Jurors did not award Mata-Gonzales the $1 million he had sought, but did award him $30,000 in damages and legal costs.

Wagner did not return a phone a call asking for comment before the the press deadline. Riddell declined comment.