Frisco PD Will Only Give Car Back to Family It May Have Wrongly Accused If They Promise Not To Sue
Pallavi Dhawan is still facing charges in the death of her 10-year-old son, Arnav, even though the final autopsy report ruled that "natural disease is most likely." It's for that and other reasons that the Frisco Police Department seems to have jumped the gun when it held a press conference accusing Pallavi of murder, as Jim Schutze detailed in a story last month.
At the time of Pallavi's arrest, the Frisco PD impounded the family vehicle with the medical records in the trunk. Dhawan family attorney David Finn fought the police in a bitter court battle before finally getting them back. "I asked these sons of bitches for a copy of these fucking medical records, like constantly, and they kept saying basically, 'Pound sand,' so I had to file a fucking emergency writ with Judge Scott Becker up in McKinney to get a copy," the lawyer told Schutze. (He is our new favorite lawyer.)
Now that Finn has the records, he's moved on to trying to get the family's car returned. In a note this week, Frisco Deputy Chief David Shilson said sure, Pallavi and her husband Sumeet can get their car back. That is, they can get it back if they agree to some "stipulations." Among those stipulations: the department can't be held liable if the car is damaged. Finn takes this to mean that the department damaged the car.
"The answer is a resounding 'no thanks,'" he wrote in an email on Thursday to Frisco Sergeant Nelson Walter. "We will not accept a vehicle that has been damaged by your Department and whose safety is questionable."
The department's offer came after Finn sent another terse email to the police on Monday, accusing the PD of continuing to drag its feet in the investigation and release of evidence. "Despite repeated requests, the Frisco Police Department continues to retain the vehicle and the family's personal effects," he wrote.
Deputy Chief Shilson responded to him on Wednesday detailing what sounded like a potentially nice compromise. "To avoid any further burden to the family, we are willing to consider the release of the vehicle from evidence before the filing of the case to the Collin County District Attorney," Shilson wrote, before hinting of the conditions that would come with that early release: "Therefore, we are forwarding stipulation documents for you to consider."
Under those stipulations, the Dhawans are asked to waive "any and all claims" against anyone who works for Frisco relating to the vehicle and its hard drive, "including, but not limited to liability, damages, property damages, legal fees, and/or costs caused by or related to any negligent or intentional act of any release." Another key stipulation says that data from the car will definitely be used as evidence, and Finn must agree to not raise any objections to that evidence being admitted in the trial, whatever that evidence may be.
(Finn responds that he's not waiving his right to object to that evidence before even seeing what that evidence is).
The car, valued at $50,000, is the family's only vehicle, and "based on the proposed stipulation, it is clear that the Frisco Police Department Ruined the vehicle," Finn wrote in a motion he filed this week Collin County court. A hearing on the car is scheduled for this Wednesday.
Frisco PD spokesman Brad Merritt won't comment on whether or not the vehicle is in fact damaged. In a statement, he says that the department had been holding onto the car because the investigation is still ongoing. The proposed agreement, he explains, is simply a way for the Dhawans to get their car back early, "in an effort to balance the needs of the criminal investigation with the family's personal needs."
So, are these stipulations normal? When we described them over the phone to Texas Civil Rights Project's staff attorney Brian McGiverin, he laughed.
"That stipulation sounds unusual to me and pretty coercive given the circumstances," he says. "If there's any damage done, it sounds like it's already been done, so why would they be asking to sign away liability?"
Finn's correspondence with the police is attached in his court motion below: