Newton police sued over traffic stop that generated 1.6 million YouTube views

By: - February 3, 2023 3:23 pm

Police body-camera footage shows Tayvin Galanakis being read his rights and arrested seconds after a roadside breath test showed he had no alcohol in his system. (Screenshot of YouTube video sourced from the Newton Police Department)

An Iowa college student whose YouTube video of a police traffic stop generated 1.6 million views is now suing the city of Newton for false arrest.

In a lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Tayvin Galanakis, 19, of Newton alleges the city and its police department are guilty of false arrest, civil rights violations and negligent supervision and training.

Galanakis alleges that shortly after midnight on Aug. 28, 2022, he was pulled over by Newton Police Officer Nathan Winters and Lt. Christopher Wing after he drove past their patrol car without dimming his headlights for oncoming traffic.

Video of the traffic stop shows Galanakis telling Winters and Wing he was driving with his high beams on because one of his headlights had a broken bulb.

“How much have you had to drink tonight?” one of the officers asked, as seen in the body-camera footage later obtained and posted online by Galanakis.

“None,” Galanakis responded.

“What do you mean ‘none’?” the officer asked.

“I’ve had nothing to drink,” Galanakis said.

“OK,” the officer said. “Why would you — why would your eyes be watery and bloodshot?”

Later, the same officer asked Galanakis again how much he had been drinking.

“I’ve had nothing to drink,” Galanakis responded.

“OK, so your movements in the car, with you fumbling over the registration, kind of say otherwise,” the officer responded. “And so does the odor of alcohol coming from your person.”

“Great, let’s do a test then,” Galanakis said.

The video shows Winters subjecting Galanakis to a variety of field sobriety tests. The lawsuit alleges Winters falsely claimed Galanakis performed poorly on the tests, although, the lawsuit claims, the police body-camera video shows otherwise.

Winters allegedly told Galanakis he had sufficient cause to arrest him based on his inability to find his registration, his bloodshot eyes and the field tests. Galanakis asked for a breath test which, when administered, showed he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.00, according to the lawsuit.

The video shows that immediately after the breath test, Winters began reading Galanakis his rights and then asked how much “weed” he had been smoking.

“I’ve had no weed tonight,” Galanakis can be seen in the video telling the officers. “Why are you saying — Wait, I blew a zero, and so now you’re trying to say I smoked weed. That’s what’s going on. You can’t do that, man. You really can’t do that.”

“Absolutely I can,” one of the officers responded.

Galanakis was taken to the Newton Police Station where he agreed to drug recognition test and urine test. According to the lawsuit, the department’s drug recognition expert administered the tests and at 2 a.m. concluded Galanakis was not intoxicated or showing any signs of drug or alcohol use. Galanakis then asked to speak to Winters, who “remained defiant” and refused to apologize, according to the lawsuit.

A few weeks after the incident, Galanakis shared on Facebook and YouTube edited versions of the body-camera footage of the traffic stop. Newton Mayor Mike Hansen said last fall that the video had triggered hundreds of telephone calls from people complaining about the matter. “We are fortunate that these disruptions to public safety operations have not led to injury or death,” Hansen told the Newton Daily News.

The mayor told the newspaper that he, the city administrator, the police chief, the police command staff and the city attorney had each reviewed the incident and concluded the traffic stop “was handled according to police departmental policy and according to the law.”

In addition to the city, the lawsuit names Winters, Wing and Police Chief Rob Burdess as defendants. They have yet to file a response to the lawsuit. The city’s attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment Friday afternoon.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.