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Utah man wrongly accused of drugging officer gets $50K

By LINDSAY WHITEHURST
Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah city has paid $50,000 to settle with a Subway worker who was wrongly accused of drugging a police officer's drink in a case that made national headlines, its attorney said Thursday.

The out-of-court settlement came after police in Layton, Utah, cleared the then 18-year-old worker who was arrested when a police officer reported feeling impaired shortly after taking a sip of the lemonade in August 2016.

Layton City Attorney Gary Crane released the settlement amount in response to a public records request from The Associated Press and other media outlets. The response came a day after the owners of the Subway shop sued the city, saying they lost thousands of dollars in business.

Worker Tanis Ukena had originally sought $250,000, according to an early settlement proposal saying police had "done lifelong damage" to the young Eagle Scout.

Ukena agreed to the settlement so he could focus 100 percent on the Mormon mission he's now serving, said his lawyer Randy Richards. Layton officials apologized to him for getting him wrapped up in the case and acknowledged he didn't do anything wrong.

Though initial tests indicated the possible presence of THC and methamphetamine in the lemonade, those results were never duplicated. Blood and urine tests showed no drugs in the officer's system. Ukena insisted he was innocent and was publicly cleared by police two months later. It remains unclear was caused the symptoms.

It's rare for the city to pay out settlements in criminal allegations, but in this case the city council felt it was appropriate, Crane said. The city did not acknowledge legal wrongdoing, he said.

The arrest made national headlines and garnered speculation about a possible motive amid growing animosity and distrust of police around the country in the wake of a number of officer-involved shootings.

Ukena has said he received online death threats and hateful comments that made him afraid to leave his northern Utah home after the case became public. The officer, whose name has not been released, remains employed with the department.

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