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BENTONVILLE -- A lawsuit accuses Bentonville police of conspiring to frame James Bates for murder.

Kathleen Zellner, Bates' attorney, filed the lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Fayetteville against Bentonville; Kristine Collins Homan, widow of Victor Collins; and Dr. Charles Kokes, a state Crime Laboratory pathologist.

Bentonville Police Chief Jon Simpson, Capt. Justin Thompson, and detectives Jerrod Wiseman, Andy Oliver, Thomas Boyle, Kris Moffit and Joshua Woodhams also are named as defendants.

Bates was charged with first-degree murder and tampering in related to Victor Collins' death. Prosecutors dismissed the charges, and the case did not go to trial.

The murder case gained national attention when prosecutors and police asked Amazon to turn over any information from an Echo device in Bates' home the night of Collins' death.

Bates' lawsuit says that an intoxicated Collins and others went to Bates' home on Nov. 21, 2015, to watch a football game in a hot tub on Bates' patio. Collins and another man, Owen McDonald, were still in the hot tub when Bates went to bed, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims Bates never had any verbal altercation or any physical contact with Collins. McDonald left Bates' home dressed in his underwear, and a motorist gave McDonald a ride home, according to a probable-cause affidavit.

Bates found Collins' body in his hot tub the next morning, according to the affidavit.

The lawsuit claims the scene was consistent with accidental drowning. Collins was extremely intoxicated and had taken prescribed medications, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that Homan told detectives that she was concerned about being deprived of any insurance coverage because her husband's death was his own fault. If Bates were found responsible for Collins' death, Homan stood to receive a payout, according to the lawsuit.

Bates' lawsuit accuses Thompson and Wiseman of falsely stating in their reports that Bates had marks, cuts and scratches on both hands, and that some of the marks were consistent with fingernail scratches. McDonald could not remember what happened the night of Collins' death, but he told police Bates was "a great guy" and not capable of hurting Collins, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit claims police provided false information to Kokes, and that Kokes fabricated the results of his autopsy.

Kokes determined that Collins was drowned as result of a strangulation and that the manner of death was homicide. The lawsuit claims Collins did not have injuries consistent with strangulation.

The lawsuit describes the criminal case against Bates as a malicious prosecution that led to Bates losing custody of his son.

Gene Page, a spokesman for the Bentonville Police Department, said last week that he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it.

Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren recently upheld a ruling that found Bates in default concerning a wrongful-death lawsuit that Homan filed against Bates. Bates did not respond to the lawsuit within 30 days of being served, so the judge granted a default judgment, which means Bates could be held financially responsible in Collins' death. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Metro on 01/28/2019

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