Victim’s lawyers ‘shocked, dismayed’ by officers’ calls

Daniel Empson suing former assistant prosecutor over November 2016 crash

A photo from the scene of a crash involving a Kent County assistant prosecutor, provided by the victim. (Nov. 19, 2016)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The law firm representing the man injured in a wrong-way crash involving a former assistant prosecutor has harsh words for the Grand Rapids Police Department and the city.

Johnson Law, PLC is representing Dan Empson. Empson was injured the night former Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Josh Kuiper crashed into Empson’s parked car after a night of drinking.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Complete coverage of the fallout of the crash

On Wednesday, after the city of Grand Rapids released phone recordings of three officers discussing how they should handle the crash, the law firm said that “our entire community should be outraged and disgusted” by what the officers said.

The officers thought they were speaking on an unrecorded line, but it was actually being recorded. The responding officer told the watch commander on duty, then-Lt. Matthew Janiskee, that Kuiper admitted he had been drinking and was “visibly intox.” Still, Janiskee asked Officer Adam Ickes to pass Kuiper on sobriety tests “if we can.” He also asked if anyone else had seen the state Kuiper was in. Janiskee, Ickes and then-Sgt. Thomas Warwick went on to discuss whether they should make Kuiper take a breathalyzer test and how they should write up their police reports.

>>Audio recordings and full transcript

The firm had not heard the recordings before they were released to the media. Empson’s lawyers released a statement to 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday afternoon, but declined an interview because they were still processing what they heard.

It took months and ruling from the Michigan Court of Appeals for the recordings to be released to the media. In its statement, Johnson Law said the city attorney’s office “should be ashamed of themselves for assisting the Grand Rapids Police Department in trying to hide these improper calls from the public for over six months.”

The statement went on to praise the media for taking the matter to court.

The firm said it was “shocked and dismayed not only by the content of these telephone calls, but also the conduct of the City of Grand Rapids and its continuous attempt to hide this misconduct from those who they are sworn to protect and serve.”

>>PDF: Full statement from Empson’s attorney

Empson and his attorneys have two pending lawsuits in relation to the crash. The first was filed in January. Empson is suing Kuiper for the cost of his injuries, which forced him to be in a sling and miss out on work for weeks following the crash. The suit also petitioned GRPD to maintain any evidence in the case.

The second lawsuit was filed in July against three bars Kuiper was at before getting behind the wheel. It argues the bars over-served Kuiper based on depositions detailing his behavior that night.