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